Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)

OPINION: We must remain diligent, says MLA Shypitka

On January 27th, 2021, Interior Health Authority (IHA) declared Fernie as having a COVID-19 community cluster. Currently, 63 active cases and 81 known cases since January 1st have affected the region.

We need to first recognize and congratulate the great work that everyone in our communities have done in being diligent with our safe practices. The simple things we have been instructed to do such as washing our hands, self-distancing, wearing a mask, and not hanging out in large groups have worked very well. Unfortunately, we are not immune to this nasty virus as it now makes its way into our communities with its highly infectious signature.

The announcement from IHA should alert everyone how real this virus is. We are now a year into this pandemic, I know everyone is tired of these restrictions. We must remain diligent especially when we are so close to vaccinations which are now being administered across the province.

This recent announcement will also undoubtedly raise tension and fear on those that are visiting us from other jurisdictions. The message is clear if you do not need to travel then do not travel. It really does not get any simpler than that.

I would like to remind everyone to please be kind during this time. I know there are those that want everything locked up and there are those that want restrictions lifted. The best course of action for all of us is to pull in the same direction and live by the advice from our Public Health Officer (PHO).

Regarding cross border travel, the Premier has stated that he is not willing to support border restrictions and the Mayor of Fernie has echoed his comments. My feeling is that we need to continue to listen to our PHO and stay home. Essential travel for work, residence, medical and childcare issues are to be recognized.

As a region that is so tied to the Alberta market our businesses are suffering badly from this pandemic. Our businesses have been doing stellar work in protecting our communities with very strict procedures and protocols. The recent cluster in Fernie is attributed to household transmission due to socializing and gathering of residents not from a specific business. Government needs to recognize our connection to Alberta and the significant and unique economic impact that this pandemic has created for us here in Kootenay East.

Our small businesses are hurting, the role of Government should be supporting, to alleviate the pressure businesses are going through and temper the fears that many have on tourism and recreation at this moment Government needs to immediately step up and provide custom made financial relief for those heavily impacted. This will do so much for us here in Kootenay East. Our provincial government has done very little for these folks and the situation in our business community is dire. We need our guide outfitters, hoteliers, pubs, restaurants, coffee shops and the rest of our business community to be around when we come out the other side of this pandemic.

Spring is only a handful of weeks away, please everyone, hang in there and let’s do this Kootenay style.

Tom Shypitka is the MLA for Kootenay-East