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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Whistler Village needs more safety protocols

Photo by Braden Dupuis

These last few weeks have seen numerous visitors arriving into the resort, which is both a welcome and worrying sign for myself as a business owner and 20-year resident. 

The concerns I share do not come from my business. I am confident that we are doing the best job possible to provide a safe environment for our Earls restaurant guests. My concerns come from three groups of my friends visiting from Vancouver, and from what is happening in other communities in B.C., for example, Kelowna [with regard to outbreaks of COVID-19]. 

I want to share three stories of friends that are very responsible families who visited Whistler over the past few weekends and shared their feelings on how [their] Whistler [experience] occurred for them compared to their lives lived in a COVID-19 Vancouver. 

The first family [is] from East Vancouver: Two professionals and their 12-year-old and eight-year-old. They stopped into the village to get a quick grab-and-go from Starbucks. 

They were overly concerned about the lack of social distancing on the Village Stroll on [a recent] Sunday at around 5 p.m. They said they had no room to avoid others as they walked their way through a short part of the stroll. Many people had no idea of flow or respect for space between themselves. People were walking right up towards them when they could have been on the other side of the stroll. 

Bottom line: they didn’t feel their space was being respected and they didn’t feel safe on the stroll. Their suggestion was to have increased directional traffic flow on the stroll using a simple barrier down the centre with directional arrows and multiple break spots to allow for people to cross to the other side should they need. Also, activate Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) staff to help people understand the process. 

The second family is from Main and 35th in Vancouver and have a holiday place at Twin Lakes. The husband is a developer and the wife is an actor and active mom in her community. 

They shared an experience of shopping at a local village supermarket where they were blown away that no one was wearing masks and social distancing didn’t seem a concern. This was to the point that the wife said she would shop at her Vancouver grocery store, as she didn’t feel safe in the grocery stores up here. They, too, were concerned about the lack of pedestrian traffic flow in the village. 

The third [comment] was from a prominent commercial real estate agent who lives in North Vancouver. 

Her comment to me was Whistler feels very “COVID-y.” I asked her what she meant and she said it seems like there is a sense of confidence when walking around Whistler that COVID doesn’t seem to exist and people don’t have to worry up here, which was very concerning to her. 

I know how many local businesses are working so hard to protect our own personal, family, business and community’s safety. I would like to suggest, at this stage of summer, that we raise our game and do so starting with creating directional flow on the Village Stroll.

This could be achieved by running a ski line-up fence down the middle and adding directional markers on the ground every 3.5 metres or so. We would need to leave gaps every 30 metres or so where people could get to the other side if they needed to exit the stroll or visit a shop on the other side. 

The RMOW has added a white line down the centre of the Village Stroll, but only in parts. This is helping a little in the painted areas, yet interestingly enough, the opposite happens in non-painted areas where people are walking in all different directions.

Painting the entire stroll as one big line from top to bottom AND adding directional arrows on each side of the line will help improve what we are trying to achieve. If you want to see for yourself, watch the positives around Bar Oso where the line exists and watch what isn’t working in front of Avalanche Pizza all the way to the pedestrian bridge where there is no white line.

We also need to invest in staff hours to help people understand the flow and how it works. Positioning a few staff throughout the village, especially on weekends between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., would be very helpful. 

Secondly, I feel we need to be progressive in creating a safe feeling on the stroll. We really should consider making the stroll a mask-zone and potentially handing out masks at key spots throughout the village. What Kelowna [is showing us from] these past few weeks could easily be a Whistler thing if we keep rolling the way we are. 

Thanks for [council’s] continued hard work and the consideration of these ideas! We need to keep our resort open and safe and any precautions we can take to minimize the chances of a second wave need to be seriously looked at. 

Kevin Wallace, GM Earls // Whistler 


(Editor’s note: This letter was sent to mayor and council and included in the council package for the July 21 regular meeting. It has been updated to reflect the RMOW painting lines on parts of the Village Stroll. In addition, a correction has been made to reflect an edit from the letter writer that was missed during the editing process.) 

Planning for back to school 

[On July 29], Rob Fleming, the Minister of Education, announced a provincial plan to return all students to school on Tuesday, Sept. 8, under an updated Stage 2 of the BC Education Restart Plan. With the guidance of the Provincial Public Health team, the Ministry of Education has updated Stage 2 in order to enhance the safety measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID while also returning all students to school. 

This plan includes provincial funding to support increased custodial services for enhanced cleaning protocols, increased hand-washing stations and supplies, increased cleaning supplies for schools, making available reusable masks for staff who wish to use them, and to provide technology enhancements for student learning. The enhanced safety measures in Stage 2 include organizing students and school staff into a Learning Group Cohort model rather than schools achieving density targets at different grade levels. This means that consistent groups of students and staff will be created and remain safely together for student learning and support. These cohorts will remain together for a determined amount of time and specific measures will be taken in the event of any change to the groupings. 

Students and staff who exhibit any symptoms of illness will continue to be asked to remain home. The cohort size for elementary and middle school students and staff will be 60 people. The cohort size for secondary students and staff will be 120 people. Online learning may support some of our secondary school course offerings to assist graduation program students with achieving their graduation and postsecondary goals. 

With this provincial pathway forward, we have enough direction to begin our detailed SD48 planning. We will be working over the next few weeks prior to school start-up to create our Learning Group Cohort model for effective educational programming for students and the school safety plans to keep all students and staff safe. 

Throughout our planning, we will continue to consult with and follow the direction of the Public Health Officers and the Ministry of Education. We will also receive further ministerial direction in the weeks to come and will then be able to provide more detailed information to you. I look forward to connecting with you again before school start-up. We are very excited to welcome our students back to school in September! Stay safe and enjoy the remainder of the summer vacation. 

Lisa McCullough // Sea to Sky School District (No. 48) 

Unmasked perspective

I am writing this letter in response to those who shame the ones who remain “unmasked” and in particular, the catchy new phrase of “Wear a f***ing mask.”

If we are truly “all in this together,” then how about we give some consideration and attempt some understanding to those who take real issue with potentially being forced to wear a mask in any public space?

I am not talking about those who deny the virus is real, try to downplay the effects or fear the loss of liberty. I am talking about those who understand the risk involved for themselves and those around them and would simply choose not to comply. 

Has any consideration been given that perhaps for these people: their quality of life, social wellbeing, professional/financial situations and overall mental health is already stretched so thin to the point of breaking, that something “so simple” as wearing a mask would actually be the final straw to send them over their edge? 

If those who remain unmasked have actually weighed the burden of being painfully ill for a few weeks and factored in the real possibility of death on top versus the prospect of having to wear a mask any time they are outside of their own home for the foreseeable future/beyond and they truly would rather roll the dice to the side of the virus: who are any of us to castrate?  

Perhaps some believe there are more important pressing issues to deal with, both personally and globally. 

I do not drive. I do not own a car. I gave it up when I moved to Whistler (more than eight years ago) because I no longer needed it and understood that owning and operating a vehicle is not good for the environment.  

This was my free choice and I feel good about it. I am helping our planet and thus, in turn, helping people. This does not mean that I now go around shaming everyone I see drive by. 

When the topic comes up, I share my thoughts, views and experience I have as someone who does not own a vehicle. I listen to those who give their reasoning of why they “need” their car and offer understanding. The same should be offered to those who choose not to wear a mask: education and understanding. 

I use a bidet at home. I bought one on Amazon. It connects directly to any toilet. It is very easy to use. It is more much more hygienic than swabbing any hole with toilet paper and actually quite refreshing in the morning.  

The money I save on toilet paper is astonishing. The best part is: it is so much better for the environment in so many ways. When I can, I try to educate others about the benefits of the bidet for themselves and for all of us. 

I do not have any kids. I love kids and am not imminently against ever having kids. At this point in my life, I am not in the right position to really consider having kids and have never previously come across that position. With all of the problems in today’s world and climate change being right near the top of the list, world population growth is directly related.

We have enough people. If someone wants to have a child, that is a human right. If they and a partner want to have two kids between them, that is very reasonable.  

However, when two people wish to expand their family beyond their inherent replacement bodies to three, four, five kids? I do believe that there are a lot of arguments to make for the case that this is selfish. But who are we to judge?  

Even if I do feel this way, I would never run up to a large family on the Village Stroll to sling profanity their way and shame them for their disregard of our own sustainability.

I understand that I may not know the whole story and it is not my place to judge others for their choices, even if those choices do affect others. 

Because if I did want to share some thoughts out loud; I would say:

“Make some REAL f***ing efforts to get your fossil-fuel-powered cars off the road!”

Or…“Quit wiping your f***ing a** with all the world’s resources!”

My point here is we all have many other issues beyond COVID-19 to deal with and these issues all affect people differently. We should not feel the need to look down upon those who do not see things as the same way we do. We need not judge them for their perceived lack of care towards others. We needn’t throw shame upon those who choose not to take up arms against one problem over another.

And we need to appreciate that the real issue for some may not just be wearing a mask but rather, it may be a combination of so many other problems pushing them close to their edge as it is; death by coronavirus would not be so unwelcome as it may seem to be for others. If a law to enforce mandatory masks were put in place, a lot of these people (who would no longer be allowed to even step out of their house without wearing a mask) may very well just seek out their own death on their own terms.

So while doctors are welcome to continue telling people to “Wear a f***ing mask,” I would maybe be curious to know how many pills worth of prescription opioids have been filled or refilled through our medical system in the last 10 years?

Brandon Smith // Whistler