Fernie Chamber urges back to basics with COVID-19 protocols

The Fernie Chamber of Commerce is urging local businesses and the wider community to get back to basics with the precautionary measures aimed at curbing COVID-19 infection rates. These measures (as recommended by the BC Provincial Health Office) include the wearing of masks in indoor public spaces (including local stores), maintaining physical distance of at least two metres, washing your hands regularly, and staying home when 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.”

The Fernie Chamber is launching a campaign this week to raise awareness locally of the continued need to follow public health advice related to the pandemic. The campaign will include new posters being distributed to all Fernie businesses to display in shopfronts, urging people to help keep local businesses open. This campaign will also be supported by messaging on social media and other Chamber communication channels.

It is hoped that the campaign can help normalize the wearing of masks in public indoor spaces locally in Fernie. “It is now the expectation that people will wear a non-medical mask in public spaces,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stated at a press conference on October 26. “So if I’m going to the grocery store, if I’m going to the hardware store or the Costco or on public transit or need to go into renew my driver’s license, those are times where we need to wear a mask.”

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 were people are wearing masks that makes people feel safer and builds consumer confidence.

Brad Parsell notes that in Fernie “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. 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.”

It is easy to think that the situation here in Fernie is different from the lower mainland of BC and that maybe the rules do not apply here – especially as we all start to experience pandemic fatigue. But as local Elk Valley physician Dr. Tara Chalmers-Nixon points out, “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.” 

Businesses, residents, and visitors can now protect our community and show their #FernieStoke with Fernie-branded masks. With the help of Tourism Fernie, Fernie-branded masks in a variety of sizes and colours are now available to purchase from the Fernie Visitor Information Centre.