Stay home, stay safe in the Okanagan this long weekend - InfoNews

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Stay home, stay safe in the Okanagan this long weekend

May 16, 2020 - 6:30 AM

Okanagan politicians are asking that visitors save their trips until later in the summer, echoing advice from the provincial health officer.

“This is an unusual time with COVID-19 and I do have concerns about an influx of people in the community and potential to spread the virus at a time when we’re doing quite well by staying at home,” said Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin.

The town relies on tourism, so it’s a fine balance, and Fortin said she doesn’t want visitors to feel unwelcome, but she “really hopes that people will continue to social distance because this isn’t over yet."

Minister of Health Adrian Dix said people need to remember to maintain physical distancing, regular hand washing, avoiding gatherings and not travel unless it's essential, in a press conference May 11.

“We are still right now in phase one and we still, all of us, have to act like it,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C. needs 'patience' as economy restarts: Dr. Bonnie Henry

“Until Dr. Bonnie Henry tells us otherwise that means stay local, stay apart, stay safe. Let's stick with what works for B.C. Follow the rules, not the urge to bend them. The best place to be in B.C. is where you live,” Dix said.

Fortin noticed an uptick in people downtown during Mother’s Day weekend last weekend, saying that it appeared the number of people out and about during the weekend has doubled, or even tripled but noted they could have been residents, not visitors.

Fortin also urged residents to not discriminate against or call out those with red Alberta licence plates, as some are also Okanagan residents.

As Peachland is part of the Central Okanagan Economic Recovery Task Force, the task force will be providing recommendations on how businesses can safely reopen while maintaining physical distancing measures, she said, while urging residents to be patient.

Darci Ritchey, manager at the Peachland Visitor Centre, said there hasn’t been an increase in calls, noting that a few days ago they did get a call from a Kamloops resident asking if the beaches were open, but said the community is divided on the topic.

“At the end of the day, everyone wants what’s best for Peachland, but I think the most important thing is if people are coming to enjoy Peachland, they have to do it responsibly and respect the community,” she said.

Bylaw enforcement is conducted on a complaint basis in the town, and a bylaw officer is not patrolling Beach Avenue, Darin Schaal, director of planning and development services with the district.

“If we receive any calls about the (provincial health officer's) social distancing recommendation, we have staff assigned to respond and help raise awareness,” he said. “This past weekend we did not receive any calls or complaints about physical distancing.”

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District is also reiterating that people should avoid non-essential travel and is encouraging people to stick to their local area this weekend.

"Despite the gradual easing of restrictions, all non-essential travel, even travelling within B.C. is continuing to be discouraged by medical health officers. The best course of action is to stay close to home," regional district board chair Kevin Flynn said in a media release, May 13.

"This is not the time to pack up the car or RV for a road trip or to head for your cabin. This is the time to stay local and check out all the great things about your home community."

The message from the regional district echoes that of Osoyoos RCMP which issued a release asking boaters to stay off Osoyoos Lake this weekend.

"While it may be permitted, we ask that you consider the risks you are putting our first responders in. Avoid non-essential boating, stay close to home to save lives," Osoyoos fire chief Dave McMahon said in a previous interview with iNFOnews.

READ MORE: Shuswap regional district asks visitors to stay away this long weekend

While the province is recommending that residents avoid "pleasure boating," Lance Kayfish, risk manager with the City of Kelowna, said there aren't plans to restrict boat access to Okanagan Lake.

“We expect people to follow the recommendations of the (provincial health officer) but will not close our boat launches. Closing boat launches is not an order nor a recommendation that we have received. We hope that people from outside the region listen to the advice (from the provincial health officer) and do not travel here from outside Kelowna and the Okanagan for the long weekend,” Kayfish said in an emailed statement.

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