The Fernie Chamber of Commerce has called for calm when it comes to rumours spreading through the Elk Valley on COVID-19 cases and close contacts, saying that it’s best to defer to the experts to avoid unnecessarily damaging businesses already having a rough time.
“Facebook’s not always a platform for kind and civil discourse.,” said executive director at the chamber, Brad Parsell.
“I think what’s concerning is people wanting to be reporters and break the news first on Facebook or whatever, without having all the facts in hand,” he said. “Have those people spoken to that business owner, do they have all the facts at hand, are they authorized to be speaking about this?”
“If there’s a business that poses any kind of risk to the community because of transmission, that will be in the public domain.”
The number of cases in Fernie and the broader Elk Valley has been the topic of widespread discussion online, with a handful of businesses taking to social media to either deny or confirm whether any of their employees or customers had returned positive tests, or were close contacts of those that had.
Parsell said that Interior Health was crystal clear on community outbreaks and outbreaks within businesses, in that it would make them public knowledge.
“What we’re seeing is a lot of businesses that are being impacted by positive cases that have not originated within the workplace … so the remaining staff and customers are not deemed at risk by IH. There’s a pretty clear line there, and its doing the businesses a disservice when we jump on Facebook peddling rumours.
“Its a tough time already for a lot of our businesses, so to keep customers away based on a rumour is not fair, really.”
Parsell said it was important that locals understood that unless information came through Interior Health, it wasn’t official, adding that businesses themselves had been doing as much as they could to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and that was reflected in where transmission was occurring.
“We’re not really seeing transmission within businesses. People’s COVID-safety plans have been great, it’s the shared living, people perhaps not doing the right thing socially that’s impacting businesses.”
Parsell said the chamber had been fielding questions from local businesses on the transparency they should be showing when employees are deemed close contacts from activities outside of work, saying that from a top-down perspective, he understood those making the decision to release all information on potential risks, “but at the same time … Interior Health will take measures if they believe there’s a risk to the community anyway.”
“Business owners are having to juggle a lot of things: Long term reputation, their brand, their standing in the community, their revenue … there’s a lot to weigh up.”
Parsell said that businesses were hurting, but overall it was a mixed bag when it came to the last few months in the Elk Valley.
“There’s a big question mark over what the rest of this winter looks like, regardless of what the COVID situation locally is.”
While things are grim for tourism, industries like accounting and construction are travelling nicely, while major employer Teck Coal hasn’t reported major disruptions to it’s operations.
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