The Trail and District Chamber of Commerce is asking the province to consider regional. Photo: Jim Bailey

The Trail and District Chamber of Commerce is asking the province to consider regional. Photo: Jim Bailey

Trail chamber requests PHO restraint for rural communities

Kootenay-Boundary businesses and residents suffer inordinately when considering COVID numbers

The Trail and District Chamber of Commerce is calling on the province to stop painting every region in B.C. with the same pandemic brush.

The Provincial Health Officer’s (PHO) recent restrictions took the “Merry” out of Christmas for many B.C. residents, and the Kootenay-Boundary region was hit unfairly hard by the PHO orders.

The Trail chamber is sending a letter of concern to Minister of Health, Adrian Dix, that asks the province to consider regional numbers when instituting future orders.

“Chambers of commerce and Boards of Trade across B.C. have been supportive of the direction taken by the province and have encouraged all citizens and businesses to follow the orders being issued by the Provincial Health Officer,” said chamber director Erika Krest.

“Many regional chambers also realize it is going to be many more months before COVID-19 is behind us and that means more decisions are likely to come from government before the vaccine has been fully distributed across the province. In light of that, many chambers are asking the province to consider regional variations when establishing or adjusting future health orders.”

There had been 15 positive COVID cases in Greater Trail, 12 in Castlegar, and three in Grand Forks in Kootenay-Boundary since January, 2020, with no new cases reported from Dec. 6-12.

In all of Interior Health, as of Dec. 18 there have been 3,124 cases, and 10,969 in Vancouver Coastal Health and almost 29,000 in Fraser Valley Health.

Preventing the spread and flattening the curve is the provincial mandate, and the chamber calls upon Kootenay-Boundary residents to continue protocols that have kept cases among the lowest in the province.

There have been 104 cases of the virus in Kootenay-Boundary since January, while larger centres like Surrey, Abbotsford, Burnaby and Delta have 10-times that number, with more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 residents.

Krest says that chambers applauded the work of the Provincial Health Officer for moving forward with a regional approach as the cases began to spike earlier this year in the Lower Mainland and believe that strategy should continue to guide decision making in the new year whether that is on Jan. 8 or further into the year, responding with tighter restrictions only when warranted on a regional basis.

Geographically, the province of B.C. encompasses a massive area that would stretch from Seattle into southern California, with characteristics unique to each region.

In week 50, recent surges in the Central Okanagan region had 349 new cases from Dec. 6 to Dec. 12. Parsing the Interior Health, which covers a vast region, into its smaller components is something that the province should consider.

“As other provinces have shown, a one size fits all approach doesn’t make sense,” said Krest, adding that the province is already divided up into distinct health authority regions.

“A regional approach to health orders would likely be easy to manage given each health authority is collecting data and closely monitoring the situations in the communities they serve.”

Given the numbers, the Trail and District chamber is advocating for its business community, which has suffered inordinately, and also for the physical and mental health of all residents. Greater Trail businesses were shut down in March and remained so, with virtually no cases at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital throughout the summer.

“We are not asking for the current temporary restrictions to be removed,” added Krest. “We are simply asking that when our collective efforts to flatten the curve starts to come to fruition, when the reopening discussions take place, that regional variances in that decision making be considered.”

Related read: Trail and District Chamber hands out 2019 business awards

Related read: Community Futures, Trail chamber access Trust’s buy-local campaign

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