Downtown Fernie, B.C. looking north in June 2021. (Scott Tibballs / The Free press)

Guest column: Vibrancy returning to Fernie with step 3

By Brad Parsell, executive director of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce

Like many people around the province, the team at the Fernie Chamber of Commerce were excited to see us move into the third step of the BC Restart Plan on July 1st. It has been a long bumpy road for businesses in Fernie through the pandemic, so its uplifting to see our businesses returning to some semblance of business as usual. Restaurants and bars are back to full capacity, as are gyms and fitness studios. Our treasured movie theatre is open again! There is a vibrancy returning to town and its great to see.

Of course, moving to step 3 also means that businesses can once again openly welcome visitors from across Canada to our region – something our tourism and hospitality sector has been waiting a long time for. We expect to see a busy summer in Fernie as more and more people start to get out and about as vaccine rates continue to climb.

One of the biggest changes in this new phase of the pandemic recovery is the doing away with the need for businesses to have a COVID safety plan in effect. This means that masks are no longer mandated in indoor public spaces like businesses and are now recommended instead. This is a huge relief for some, but its important to recognize that not every business will be rushing to remove mask requirements for staff and guests. As I write this, only 36 percent of British Columbians are fully vaccinated. It has been recommended by the provincial health office that people still use their masks indoors until they fully vaccinated.

This means you are still going to see certain businesses in Fernie ask you to wear a mask. This means that many people will still continue to wear masks inside of their own accord until they are fully vaccinated. And that’s ok. We need to respect everyone’s comfort levels this summer as we come out of the pandemic. We still have people who are more vulnerable than others. In the words of BC Chamber CEO Fiona Famulak, “While we transition to an environment where masks are recommended (vs. required) in public indoor settings, we must be respectful of each other’s circumstances and move forward with patience as we all adjust and businesses develop their communicable disease plans, to ensure the safety of employees and patrons.”

So let’s have a bunch of fun this summer, while still being respectful and kind to each other.

-Brad Parsell is executive director of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce