Fernie is headed into the holiday season and it’s no surprise that Covid-19’s second wave is rapidly spreading throughout BC and out-of-control in Alberta. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam has been predicting this second wave for months.
Last week Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced wide-ranging new rules for controlling the spread of COVID-19, including mandatory masks in indoor public and retail spaces, restricting social gatherings to household members only and asking everyone not to travel outside their communities for non-essential reasons. Of significance to Fernie and the Elk Valley, Henry is asking people from other provinces to postpone their trips to B.C. See BC’s Travel Restrictions here.
Holidays seasons in Fernie have been busy in recent years with line ups, full parking lots, lift lines and empty grocery stores. What should we expect this holiday season with the current Non-essential travel restrictions, givin the likelihood that they will be extended into the new year?
The BC Centre for Disease Control has a very clear definition of Non-essential travel: “British Columbians have been advised to avoid travel within the province or outside of the province at this time. People travelling to B.C. from another province or territory within Canada should only come for essential reasons.
Essential travel is travelling for work, school, medical appointments, and to obtain groceries, medicines, and other essential items. It can also mean travelling to care for someone like a family member who is ill.
Non-essential travel is travel for tourism, entertainment, or recreation. Stay local for these activities. For example ski and snowboard at your local mountain. An existing order also halts travel to other regions for sports.”
So, what does that really mean?
In short, Victoria’s guidance against inter-provincial travel is a recommendation, not an order. There are orders and there are recommendations, the orders are non-negotiable and the recommendations are hoping that people to use their common sense.
Holiday bookings from out-of-province guests will continue and all we can be is hopeful that prospective guests will use their best judgement when visiting.
Andy Cohen, Fernie Alpine Resorts General Manager, commented on facebook about selling lift tickets to non-locals, “There is not a Travel Ban. There is a recommendation to non essential travel. Not a ban, order or law.”
Matt Mosteller, Senior Vice-President for Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, commented to CTV, “Essentially it’s 11 hours for us to go to Vancouver, but it’s an hour for us to go to Alberta so we’re in very close proximity and we share a great bond. You know, we are really promoting that we have to do our part now, but then let’s have a ski season where we can ski well, and be well.”
The best outcome is that balance can be achieved in protecting public health while preventing a protracted economic decline for Fernie’s small businesses. Restrictions impose short-term costs but may lead to a faster economic recovery as they lower infections. Unfortunately the pandemic continues and the final chapters have yet to unfold.
I don’t know what will happen moving forward however, I wish everyone the best regardless of whether or not you’re local–stay safe and be healthy.