Fernie Chamber of Commerce is asking local businesses and residents to get back to the basics with COVID-19 protocols to curb infection rates.
Measures introduced by the BC provincial health officer include wearing a mask within indoor public spaces, maintaining a safe physical distance of two meters from others, washing hands regularly and staying home if you are feeling unwell.
“With much of Canada now officially in a second wave of COVID-19 cases it is critical that we all do our part not only to protect each other from the novel coronavirus, but also to keep our local businesses open,” says Brad Parsell, Executive Director of the Fernie Chamber. “As we enter the winter season, our ability to gather and interact safely outdoors will be greatly reduced as we spend more time inside.”
Over the weekend, B.C. has broken its record of highest case counts, reporting 1,120 new infections province-wide. However, the Interior Health region saw just 36 new cases between Friday and Monday, while the East Kootenay has reported five infections between October 16th and October 29th.
More: 36 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health since Friday, 1,120 reported province-wide (Nov. 2, 2020)
This week, Fernie Chamber of Commerce said it is launching a campaign to bring awareness to the continuing need to follow public health advice related to the pandemic.
Posters will be given to businesses to display on storefronts, and residents will be urged to help keep local businesses afloat.
The Chamber said it hopes the campaign will help normalize wearing a mask in public indoor spaces in Fernie.
Last Monday, Dr. Bonie Henry, provincial health officer, said masks will be expected in public spaces but has stopped short of making them mandatory for the time being.
“While the Fernie Chamber stresses that masks are not a replacement for other important measures like physical distancing and regular hand washing, it is a critical part of our layers of protection against COVID-19. There is also the optics of entering a space where people are wearing masks that makes people feel safer and builds consumer confidence,” said the Chamber of Commerce.
Parsell said wearing masks in the community will make Fernie more welcoming to visitors.
“Most of our visitors during ski season come from southern Alberta and in some of those jurisdictions, masks have been mandated for quite some time now. It is confronting to people from those regions to arrive in a destination like Fernie where masks are not as common,” said Parsell. “We need to build confidence that it is safe to interact with Fernie businesses. I would encourage businesses to consider having their staff wear masks too. Let’s go above and beyond the rules and show our community that we really care.”
The Chamber added that it could be easy to think the situation in Fernie is different from the rest of B.C., and the rules do not apply the same here, especially as people start to experience pandemic fatigue.
“Although people may be becoming tired of the COVID-19 virus, it is not becoming tired of us. We are seeing rising cases across Canada and BC is no exception. Please do your part and keep your social circle small, physical distance at work and in public, hand wash often, and wear a mask when inside places other than your own home or private workspace,” said Elk Valley physician Dr. Tara Chalmers-Nixon.
With the help of Tourism Fernie, Fernie-branded masks can be purchased by residents, businesses and visitors in a variety of sizes and colours from the Fernie Visitor Information Centre.