With the long weekend receding into memory, Mayor Don McCormick said that though there was apprehension of an influx of visitors, he wound up being very pleased with what he saw.
“It’s been an awesome weekend,” McCormick said in his weekly checkin with the Bulletin. “We’ve had very little visitor traffic, certainly none that’s been identifiable and everybody around town has continued to hunker down, it’s been awesome. Just a huge thank you to the entire community for making this a community response, not just an individual one, but a community response. We’re all in this together and we’re proving that out.”
The Mayor said he was out driving around the community over the weekend to get a gauge on how many people were in from out of town, and how many people were observing proper social distancing protocols.
“I didn’t cover every street in Kimberley, I was focusing more on places where accommodation takes place, but it proved on the weekend that everybody in the community is with the program, they’re committed to the program and as a result of that we will be out of this sooner than later.”
He said that the number of people he saw who may not have been practicing physical distancing were actually families, people who are already living together.
“When we’re talking physical distancing, as long as the families are staying together, they are in it together and so I think we need to remember that not everybody out on the street, by not physical distancing, is breaking the rules,” he explained.
The month of March saw a new category added to the monthly bylaw enforcement report, which is of course social distancing. In total there were eight issues or files opened pertaining to social distancing, with five verbal warnings and three reports from the public of failure to observe social distancing.
The role of the bylaw officer is to educate people for them to understand why these measures are in place.
“Our bylaw officer is really providing as much an education role as an enforcement role,” McCormick said. “And I think it’s really critical that if people see a group that is congregating and not practicing physical distancing, peer pressure needs to come to bear, in other words, they need to go to the group and say look you shouldn’t be doing this, please don’t do it, and peer pressure works far more effectively than bylaw enforcement does.”
Another issue the Mayor addressed was the “anti-redplate” sentiments that have been floating around in the East Kootenay, particularly leading up to the weekend with many concerned about an influx of Alberta tourists into the region disregarding the rules.
“I think it’s important to remember that in our community we have a fair number of Alberta plates that are here because those people are living here,” McCormick said. “The people who own those vehicles are living here. They’ve either come out here for work, a lot of it in the construction trades. We’ve got a lot of people who live out here for several months, as much as six months at a time before spending time elsewhere. There’s a whole bunch of reasons why. And I guess the third thing is we’ve got people actually relocating here from Alberta.”
McCormick said that he’s heard stories, not necessarily specifically from Kimberley, but from around the region of conflicts happening in grocery store parking lots with locals confronting people with Alberta licence plates.
“I’m not sure what the percentage in town is, but a very high percentage of people that live here now has actually moved here from Alberta, myself included, and it takes months after you move out here before full changes, including change of license plates occurs,” he said. “I think it’s just important for everybody to be a little bit patient and understand that not all those plates are visitors ignoring the rules.”
Another issues raised by the Mayor is that as we are getting into the fifth week of social isolation, the “critics are starting to come out of the woodwork.” As the number of cases and overburdening of the hospitals has not materialized, some people are growing critical of the measures put in place and the economic price that we’ll have to pay as a result.
“I just would like to remind everybody that one of the reasons why the spike has not materialized is because everybody has gotten behind the direction and we have actually flattened the curve and we have caused that spike not to happen,” McCormick said. “I think it’s really critical for us not to be critical of the strategy, we’re all in and we need to focus on it and stay the course if we want to get out of this sooner than later. This is not the time to be questioning whether this was the right strategy or not.”
He added that there are lots of reasons lately for optimism. He said that if everybody around the province exhibited the same discipline that we did here in Kimberley, he is very optimistic that we will start to see a receding in the number of cases and then we can start to focus our efforts on “getting ourselves back to life again.”