British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Fernie Chamber: Good winter season is “ours to lose”

The chamber has launched a campaign to normalise mask wearing and encourage COVID-compliance

The Fernie Chamber of Commerce has launched its own ‘Back to Basics’ campaign on COVID-19 protocols, encouraging the Fernie community to take the pandemic more seriously in order to keep businesses open.

Executive director of the chamber, Brad Parsell said that the second wave of COVID-19 cases around the world was a major threat to commercial businesses given that lock-downs and limits of travel and socializing forced operators to close their doors – whether by provincial health orders or through lack of travel.

The risk then, is that additional public health orders as a result of general non-compliance with pandemic guidelines could put the brakes on an optimistic season for tourism in the Elk Valley.

“I think business did a great job this summer managing COVID protocols, but it was often a little more simple with so many outdoor options,” he said.

“With winter coming, it’s an urgency … everywhere in the Northern hemisphere is deep into a second wave as we head in to winter.”

Though the campaign was only launched on Monday (Nov. 2), Parsell said so far the response had been positive. The campaign pushes the main tenets of public health guidelines, like maintaining social distancing, wearing masks in indoor public spaces, frequently washing hands and staying home while feeling unwell.

The chamber has distributed posters to participating businesses within Fernie, with a campaign goal of normalizing the wearing of masks indoors to bring Fernie in line with provincial expectations.

Multiple businesses in Fernie have their own signage up encouraging visitors to wear masks and maintain social distancing (including some that have mandatory mask policies) but Parsell said there was space for a community leadership organization to push harder for more compliance.

“I think a lot of people were waiting for someone (in Fernie) to say something,” he said.

“It’s difficult because our region by and large hasn’t been affected by the pandemic – yet, touch wood. That fact alone emboldens people (to not follow recommendations)” said Parsell.

“It was important that there was somebody out there locally saying yes, we should be wearing masks – it’s important that we don’t let our guard down.”

Currently, there is no provincial mask mandate in British Columbia, with Dr. Bonnie Henry changing her messaging on the value of masks as the pandemic wore on, but resisting calls for a mandatory mask policy.

Most recently, Dr. Henry has said that there was an “expectation” that people wear masks in public spaces.

“So if I’m going to the grocery store, if I’m going to the hardware store or the Costco or on public transit or need to go into renew my driver’s licence, those are times where we need to wear a mask,” she said last week.

On what’s at stake for Fernie and the Elk Valley, Parsell said that indications now were that winter was going to be busy, but “it’s ours to lose.”

“We have to remember where our visitors come from,” he said, explaining that most travellers to the Elk Valley came from Alberta – where there are more forceful mask guidelines, including in Lethbridge where the use of face coverings in indoor public settings is mandatory, rather than encouraged. Including city-operated spaces, the Lethbridge bylaw also covers buses, rideshare services, malls, businesses and churches.

The City of Fernie has not enacted any similar bylaws, but fully supports the guidelines of Dr. Bonnie Henry. Masks are mandatory for city staff and for members of the public visiting city facilities however, and council meetings are conducted in COVID-19 compliant settings with limits on numbers.

Parsell said that for tourism in the Elk Valley, the optics of the community being compliant is vital to ensuring tourism numbers don’t fall away.

“(Winter tourism) is a fiercely competitive space. If word gets out that Fernie is an unsafe place, (tourists) are just going to go to Banff or Revelstoke or Kicking Horse,” he said.

“Fernie has to be seen to be a safe place.”

READ MORE: City of Fernie seeks to hire more staff
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Recent numbers of COVID-19 cases in British Columbia have been on the rise, with active cases pushing towards 3,000 as of writing.

Meanwhile in neighbouring Alberta (the primary source of tourism in the Elk Valley) active cases are well above 5,000.

Earlier this week, Interior Health reported there were 93 active cases in the region it covered in British Columbia, with the vast majority of cases in the province in the Fraser Health region of Greater Vancouver. BC health authorities reported an increase of 1,120 cases over the weekend.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
81 new cases of COVID-19 detected in Interior Health Friday

One additional staff member at Kelowna long-term care home tests positive, no new deaths

Regional COVID-19 numbers on the rise

More than 20 cases have been diagnosed in the region since last week

Fernie Fire Rescue evacuated three properties on Monday afternoon due to a residential gas leak. File photo.
RDEK extends agreement with City of Fernie for rural fire coverage

The district voted to renew its agreement for five years and contribute $450,000 for an eventual new firehall

The 2020 Wasa Triathlon was cancelled. Above, the bike portion of the 2019 event. Bulletin file
Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon committee is going ahead with planning 2021 event

Lots of uncertainty, but the committee has decided its too early to cancel

Dr. Albert de Villiers, Chief Medical Health Officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
‘People need to start listening’: IH top doc combats COVID-19 misconceptions

Dr. Albert de Villiers says light at the end of the tunnel will grow in step with people’s adherence to PHO guidance

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Interior Health says Salmo’s COVID-19 cases have been contained. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Interior Health: Salmo’s COVID-19 cases are contained

Every person who tested positive has recovered

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Vancouver Island for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

Most Read