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You might be on vacation, but COVID is not

Whistler stakeholders evolve pandemic protocols in ‘iterative’ process
n-weekend 27.31
New measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Whistler Village include new signage and line painting—but the work isn’t done. Photo by Braden Dupuis

While Whistler’s key resort stakeholders have been meeting weekly to discuss the ever-evolving crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic (and adjust accordingly—see the fresh signage and directional line-painting in Whistler Village as one recent example), the weight of it all remains lost on some.

“To be really frank, it’s challenging because when people are here on vacation, they aren’t always aware of some of the protocols,” said Tourism Whistler president and CEO Barrett Fisher. 

“We’ve heard feedback from some people saying that they got away from the city because they wanted to get away from some of the challenges with COVID, thinking that Whistler is removed from that. Certainly we’ve been fortunate that we are a very healthy outdoor community, but in order to keep it that way, we need visitors to understand that … even though they’re on vacation, COVID is not.”

That’s part of the key messaging now being rolled out in the village, Fisher said, but it’s far from the final word—Whistler’s management of pandemic protocols has been an iterative process with all the key players at the table.

“We’ve put in a number of important safety precautions, but there’s certainly more to do. It’s not something we’ll be finished with,” said Mayor Jack Crompton.

“It’s iterative; we need to continue learning and improving our safety performance. COVID-19 is very much a new world.”

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is launching a program to help drive alignment of safety protocols between various village businesses, and recognize those with numerous, visible safety measures in place, Crompton added. 

By completing an RMOW COVID-19 protocol checklist (covering everything from occupancy and lineups on the stroll to cleaning and hygiene measures), businesses can receive a sticker showing their compliance.

“Our goal is to drive safety alignment in the village,” Crompton said.

“We’ll be more effective with a uniform safety experience for visitors to the village. We want to ensure that visitors feel invited and secure while also ensuring they are treating our community with respect, and are taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Other initiatives are also being rolled out, including 12 new picnic tables at various locations to assist restaurants with takeout options and more action to reduce crowding at local parks.

“Beginning this weekend, parking in Whistler’s parks will be significantly limited to manage crowding in the parks and for the safety of pedestrians on roads,” Crompton said, adding that street parking will be limited in areas, and paid on-call firefighters will once again be utilized to help manage parking.

Parking violators will be ticketed and possibly towed.

The RMOW is looking at bringing in a shuttle service, potentially from Creekside and the village, to get people to and from parks, the mayor added.

The RMOW wants to encourage a unified approach to COVID-19 measures to ensure confidence in both visitors and residents, said chief administrative officer Virginia Cullen.

“What our teams observed this morning was really encouraging—we visited many businesses that have visible measures in place such as clearly marked physical distancing for lineups, Plexiglass barriers between staff and customers and maximum occupancy signs on entrance doors,” she said.

“I’m really encouraged that Whistler businesses want to do their best to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and we’re happy to provide resources such as signage to the business community to do so.”