Community must maintain social distancing: Community leaders

With COVID cases in BC and Alberta rising, the Elk Valley ‘could anticipate increased numbers’

The number of COVID cases in British Columbia is on the rise, with the province recording its highest-ever count of active cases as of Monday Aug. 17.

The tally sits at 743 for active cases within the province with 235 new cases reported on Monday.

For Interior Health, only six new active cases were reported on Monday. The majority of the new cases remain within Fraser Health and the Lower Mainland.

Turning east, Alberta reported an additional 359 cases over the same period. There were 1,132 active cases within Alberta as of Monday, Aug. 17.

Elk Valley Hospital Medical Staff Association Chair, Tara Chalmers-Nixon told The Free Press that the numbers out of Alberta and the rise within B.C. was proof that “we are not out of the woods yet.”

Chalmers-Nixon said that while we are lucky in the East Kootenay to have had low numbers throughout the pandemic, the cases in Alberta were concerning.

“But as we see the cases rise in Alberta, which is our closest neighbour, and (home of) the tourist population that we rely on for our local businesses, we could anticipate increased numbers.”

Chalmers-Nixon said the low numbers were good, but “it’s our job as a community to keep those numbers that way.”

Touching on a point of contention for parents around the province, Chalmers-Nixon said any semblance of normality could only return if we continued to maintain COVID-19 avoidance protocols.

“Our children will be able to go back to school if we all continue to practice the real tenets around virus transmission prevention.”

She explained that that meant no going out if you’re sick, washing your hands well and often, keeping your social bubble small and wearing a mask when social distancing wasn’t possible.

Community leaders commended the Elk Valley community’s embrace of COVID measures, with Brad Parsell of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce saying the chamber “continues to applaud the efforts of local businesses who are taking the pandemic and their safety plans seriously.

“Protecting each other and building consumer confidence is the key to our economic recovery,” he said.

“In Fernie we have been very lucky to avoid an outbreak to date but that sense of false security, coupled with COVID fatigue, is a dangerous situation that can lead to complacency. Let’s continue to be vigilant – especially as the weather cools and being outdoors as much is no longer an option.”

Jikke Gyorki of Tourism Fernie stressed that any winding back of travel restrictions had only been done with the proviso that everyone follow social distancing guidelines.

“Travel within BC and to BC from other provinces has been allowed by the BC government since June 24 when Phase 3 started. But this came with travel safety guidelines of which keeping 6ft apart from those outside your bubble is essential,” she said.

“As the economy and society continues to open up with BC government guidelines in place COVID-19 is expected to remain manageable and controlled but we must all continue to do our part until the pandemic is over.”

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