There can be no doubt that we are living in a new reality.
It feels like the very foundation of our community has been rocked and this has left us looking around for answers, guidance, and a path away from the abyss we're facing.
It was shocking when Vail Resorts announced the closure of Whistler Blackcomb (WB). It wasn't as if the community didn't expect changes, such as reducing access to or closing restaurants, limiting access to gondolas, and perhaps just keeping Whistler Mountain open, but shutting down operations completely...well, that was unexpected.
After all, skiing and riding in the outdoors in freezing temperatures and practising social distancing seem compatible.
For Whistler Blackcomb, of course, this is not just about offering an activity—operators had to think of workers, in other words, our community of neighbours.
Consider the close quarters of staff housing. Consider the number of workers whose homes are far away who are leaving town.
Consider the exponential way this COVID-19 illness is spreading. By all accounts for every known case, there are 50 unknown cases. And let's be clear, there is no doubt that people in Whistler are ill from this already and in all likelihood have transmitted it unknowingly.
We also know that about 80 per cent of people who contract it suffer flu-like symptoms and come out the other side OK.
But others are not so fortunate, and we as a community need to think about our vulnerable population. It was great to see our grocery stores introducing hours so that only seniors and others who are deemed "high risk" can shop safely, and even offering free delivery. And some doctor's clinics are offering telemedicine consultations—not ideal, but under the circumstances, this could help many as we keep our distance from each other.
(And just a thought, but it might be a good idea to curtail high-risk adventures for a while. Our medical facilities need to focus on COVID-19 for now.)
Those of us who are able need to reach out to neighbours or to local support agencies and see where we can lend a hand. Can we deliver someone's groceries? What about just a phone call to check in on someone and touch base—isolation can be very depressing. If we are not working, how can we support those on the frontlines of this, our healthcare workers, those in social services and even government, so that they can work?
If we can give money to our communities' food banks, that would help, as many families and workers will need support with groceries in the coming weeks as paycheques dry up.
I couldn't keep up with the number of emails I was getting announcing temporary business closures while writing this.
For years, we have been reporting on the lack of workers in our town. The last thing we need is for people to leave now because, hopefully, in a few months, we will be getting back on track and welcoming visitors to enjoy the splendour of our natural environment and all our amenities.
But we need more than this if we are going to weather this storm.
We need landlords to consider what kind of break they can give their tenants, both residential and commercial. We need government support to help small businesses and workers who are laid off. We need businesses to think about how they can support their employees. We need our local community leaders to get creative in supporting our town.
And what about shopping locally wherever we can? Let's keep as much of our local money circulating here as possible.
Can the Whistler Housing Authority offer short-term rental and mortgage relief to people above and beyond what the federal government announced on March 18?
Can provincial funds given to Whistler to support tourism here be reimagined to support people rather than festivals—or can those be combined? Can Whistler create its own stimulus package to keep workers here and support them?
Perhaps these are unrealistic suggestions, but necessity can lead to invention, given the chance.
That $1.37 million a day Whistler generates in taxes to all levels of governments is gone for a while, but I'm sure the province, the feds and the municipality want it back, so maybe it's time to think about how to use the money they give back to us in an out-of-the-box manner.