Earlier this week, the City issued a statement discouraging all non-essential traffic into Kimberley for at least the next month to help slow the spread of COVID-19, with Mayor Don McCormick saying, “viruses don’t travel, people do.”
He said that the the lack of broad testing for the virus in Kimberley makes it seem invisible, but we would be “naive” to think it isn’t here. One of his biggest concerns was for the city’s more than 2000 residents that are in the vulnerable category, such as the elderly.
“Here in Kimberley, we don’t have any confirmed cases, but we would completely naive not to believe the virus is everywhere in our community,” McCormick said in a follow-up interview with the Bulletin. “The reason we don’t show confirmed cases is because we haven’t done any testing, or certainly the testing has not been extensive.”
McCormick said that he’s aware that as we are now about two and a half weeks into social isolation protocols, people are starting to get a little “stir crazy” and he worries that with people not seeing confirmed cases of the coronavirus pop up, their resolve to stay isolated will start to crumble.
“This is disturbing to me, because we are not anywhere near halfway through this thing yet and already now people are going a little stir crazy,” he said. “And they’re getting anxious and starting to be critical of the government agencies, those that are responding.”
McCormick added that we need to think as though the virus is everywhere, even if it isn’t yet visible. Consider that when you go out, your hands come into contact with many different things, creating a risk of transmission.
He acknowledged how hard and unnatural all of this isolation is for people.
“It’s hard for people to isolate and just sit and wait. We’re social beings and sitting and waiting is not really part of our DNA.”
Part of the difficulty, he suspects, stems from how quickly people are used to getting information in today’s digital age.
“This is a 30 second soundbite universe that we live in,” he said.”People are used to getting things quickly, they’re used to getting a response to things quickly, you can go online and get answers to any possible question that you have in less than 30 seconds. And in that environment we are now suddenly in a position where we have to wait and we’re waiting for not just hours or days, we’re waiting weeks and perhaps even months, and it’s just not the way our society has been functioning.”
So the longer this isolation stretches out, the harder it will be for people to stick it out, but McCormick stressed that the way all of this will end is by people doing just that.
“Of course I think everybody is getting tired of hearing the non-essential traffic message, the hygienic message and the stay home message, but those are the three things that we absolutely need to be focusing in on,” he said.
The response from the community to his message discouraging non-essential visitation has been met with some concerns, but mostly positive responses. Some of the concern comes from Alberta, as we are so close to the border and so many Albertans own homes here, creating a different dynamic than some other B.C. communities.
The other overwhelming concern is how our economy, which is so heavily reliant on tourism, will survive this.
“In addition to keeping informed and being prepared, doing the things we need to do, we also need to look forward to recovery,” he said. “And while we are self isolating and while we have all this time on our hands it’s the perfect time to look forward to when we’re out of this and how we’re going to respond and get things back to whatever the new normal will be at that point in time.”
He touched on the work going on behind the scenes, both in Kimberley and around the region to help residents and the business in the short term and prepare for the long term. This includes the city allowing for the deferral of utility payments and the region creating an economic resiliency task force which is planning and thinking about the things needed to do at the end of this crisis.
“The reason this is important is because people rely on jobs to be able to put food on the table,” he said. “If we don’t have a strong and vibrant business community, those jobs aren’t going to exist and we aren’t going to have, or be able to maintain, the type of vibrancy in the community that we’ve been experiencing for a while now.”
The Kimberley Bulletin will be doing weekly interviews with the Mayor to keep up with everything the City is doing to get through this difficult situation.