B.C. has announced a spate of new health orders and recommendations to stem the rising tide of COVID-19 that will have major implications for Whistler.
Although not technically an order, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reiterated in a briefing Thursday, Nov. 19 that all non-essential travel, both within the province and across Canada, should be limited.
“I am not putting a travel order in place, however, as the premier mentioned yesterday, it is our expectation that everybody in B.C. right now will limit their travel as much as possible, unless it is essential," she said.
Relevant to the resort, Henry specifically urged British Columbians looking to hit the slopes to “go to a local mountain.” Per the B.C. government web page announcing today's measures, that means "if you live in Vancouver, you should ski at Cypress, Grouse or Mt. Seymour." Whistler Blackcomb is slated to open Nov. 26.
Pique followed up with the provincial health office for clarity on whether Lower Mainland skiers can travel to Whistler Blackcomb, and received back a statement taken from Henry's previous press conference that didn't specifically encourage or prohibit visitors to the resort.
“It is our expectation that everybody in B.C. right now limit their travel as much as possible unless it is essential. It is limiting our recreational and travel for social reasons that we're talking about. This includes travel within the province and travel to other parts of Canada," Henry said in Thursday's presser. "I'm asking people again: we need to step back, we need to stay local. Stay within your community as much as possible. Of course, if you need to travel for work, for a medical appointment, for reasons that are essential that does not apply."
Henry also encouraged anyone with non-essential plans to travel to B.C. in the next two to four weeks to postpone their trip.
“I absolutely recognize that tourism is important to our communities and our economy, and the significant efforts that many of our tourism businesses have put in place for safety plans for themselves and for their guests and staff,” she said.
“The challenge we are facing is people are coming to B.C. from these other jurisdictions and we know for international travel, there are appropriate mechanisms in place for quarantine that are not in place for inter-provincial travel.”
The new orders, which are in effect until midnight Dec. 7, include the mandatory wearing of masks in all indoor public common areas and retail spaces, including for customers as well as staff, except when eating or drinking in a designated food service area. The order does not apply to children under two or anyone otherwise medically unable to wear a mask.
The move comes after weeks of officials downplaying the need for a mandatory mask policy in the face of pressure from the health and retail sectors. Many retailers have voiced their frustration over past public health recommendations on mask-wearing while leaving enforcement up to individual businesses. Henry said the new rules, which follow other provinces that have already instituted mandatory mask regulations, such as Ontario and Saskatchewan, will give government support to businesses in enforcing mask protocols.
Social gatherings of any size with anyone other than your household or core bubble are suspended, which includes outdoor gatherings. Officials consider a core bubble, for most, to be those in their immediate household. For others, like those who live alone, a core bubble can contain up to two people living outside their household.
Businesses, recreation centres and fitness facilities must suspend “high-risk indoor group physical activities” like spin classes, hot yoga and high-intensity interval training. Other community-based gatherings, such as galas, musical or theatre performances, and silent auctions are also suspended.
Other physical activities such as dance, martial arts and cheerleading can continue while the province develops updated guidelines. Gyms and facilities can also continue offering individual workouts and personal training provided a COVID-19 safety plan is followed.
Near the end of the presser, an emotional Henry pleaded directly to B.C.’s youth to do their part in helping flatten the curve.
“I know how difficult this has been for you and the impact on your lives. I know you have been missing birthdays, and graduations and celebrations of these important transitional moments in our lives,” she said. “I also know that you have been role models and inspirations. Young people have proven that they have resilience, that you’re adaptable and that you’re brave, and I’m calling on all of you right now: I need you. I need you to be superheroes, to step up, hold the line and help all of us get through this."
B.C. recorded 538 new cases of COVID-19 and one death in the past 24 hours, bringing the province's death toll to 321.To learn more about the new health orders, visit gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/restrictions.