The RDEK Board of Directors has unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Provincial Health Officer to introduce stronger measures and provide additional clarity around travel between communities in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a region we are united in our desire to reduce the impacts of this virus on our health care system and our communities,” says RDEK Board Chair Rob Gay. “While the Provincial Health Officers on both sides of the border have been clear in their messaging that people need to be staying home, that message is not being heeded. We are gravely concerned about the potential impacts on our small rural hospitals, front line workers and communities.”

To that end, the Board will be sending a letter calling on the Provincial Health Officer to implement additional measures, such as closure of the Provincial border to non-essential traffic, closure of private campgrounds and closure of the backcountry to overnight camping, be put in place to limit the influx of travel to and within, and gathering in, the region during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are urging all non-resident property owners in our region to please stay in their primary homes. There should be absolutely no travelling back and forth. In addition, we are seeing groups of campers in the backcountry, groups of mudboggers in the Koocanusa area, several families staying together in vacation homes, and more. The Provincial Health Officer has stressed repeatedly that, while the order has only banned events of more than fifty people, there should be no group gatherings of any size. Every interaction with others increases the potential for the spread of infection and this behaviour needs to stop,” stresses Gay. “We want to be very clear that this is not a province to province issue. This is also about behaviours locally within our region.”

The RDEK Board, which represents all of the rural areas and municipalities within the East Kootenay, is hoping to see additional measures and clarity from the Provincial Health Officer sooner than later. “Under the Provincial State of Emergency, local governments do not have the tools to make these changes ourselves, but we are pleading with the Province to act now to help us prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our corner of the Province,” says Gay.

Easter weekend typically sees a surge of thousands of recreationalists and second home owners coming to East Kootenay. There is concern emergency services, the health care system, local grocery stores and other essential service providers simply will not be equipped to handle an influx of people at this time and under these extraordinary circumstances. “This is about making a conscious choice to stay home and stay safe,” adds Gay. “We are asking the Provincial Health Officer to introduce new measures that will prevent all non-essential travel and make it clearer that we need to stay home.”

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