Local leaders share thoughts on COVID-19 along with empathy and support

Mayors of Canal Flats, Invermere and Radium, area F and G directors and RDEK release COVID-19 words.

Submitted by Regional District of East Kootenay in collaboration with Karl Sterzer, mayor of Canal Flats, Al Miller, mayor of Invermere, Clara Reinhardt, mayor of Radium, Susan Clovechok, Area F director and Gerry Wilkie, Area G director

The impacts of this pandemic are far reaching and are impacting so many different aspects of our lives. Many of the concerns being heard relate back to the health and wellness of residents in the valley and beyond.

Socially, the lack of human connection is hard for many people who are feeling lonely or isolated. Conversely, there are concerns being raised about those who are choosing not to follow the physical distancing and non-essential travel guidelines, and the increased risk that this could present to the whole community. We all need to remain committed to following the provincial guidelines.

The economic impacts stretch from those who have had to close their businesses to those who’ve lost income and are concerned about how they’ll pay their bills and feed their families. Emotionally, this is a very difficult time for many. Some essential service workers have had to seek new child care options. Others are transitioning to working from home, trying to juggle every day responsibilities and support learning at home. These are but a few examples that illustrate the diverse challenges and concerns our residents are coping with. New supports – whether they are financial or virtual – are being announced all the time, and we are encouraging residents to reach out and take advantage of the supports that are available.

Our valley has shown incredible commitment and resilience. It is heartwarming and inspiring to see how our community is coming together to solve problems that a month or two ago we had never anticipated. Grassroots volunteer supports have popped up, neighbours are reaching out and helping neighbours, and strangers are seeking out ways to support the community, whether that is through sewing gowns and masks or picking up groceries or prescriptions for someone who needs them.

Local stores and businesses are adapting and re-tooling to continue to meet community needs and protect their workers. When a small local store had to close, the owners delivered food packages and supplies to those in the community who needed them. The Business Support Team has rallied together to promote local resilience and to begin working collectively on strategies for recovery once restrictions have been lifted. Our chief of staff for the Invermere and District Hospital is showing leadership and is part of the collective effort in the region to educate residents about the current situation and guidelines we need to follow to bend the curve and keep each other safe.

We know many of our seniors are being directly impacted. In addition to the grassroots efforts underway in the valley to help them and others in need, the province has expanded support for seniors through the bc211 hotline and website, a province-wide information and referral service. It matches volunteers to seniors. The service takes calls from seniors and people who would like to volunteer to help them with basic needs, including grocery shopping and pharmacy drop-offs, and check-ins. Seniors and volunteers are then matched by local agencies. Family Dynamix has the Better at Home program and is responsible for 211 in our area.

While the province and the provincial health authority are leading the charge on the response to COVID-19 and issuing the orders and guidelines, local governments have taken a number of steps in support of these directives. While our offices and public facilities are closed to public access, we’ve transitioned to remote working where we continue to maintain essential government services. We’ve closed playground structures to help reduce the potential spread of the virus and have introduced penalty-free deferrals on utility bills. We are working cooperatively through the Regional Emergency Operations Centre to provide consistent and regular communication to the region so people can stay informed and aware. We continue to evaluate other ways to support our residents and advocate for their safety as we remain united in our efforts to reduce the impacts of this virus on our health care system and our communities.

Anyone wishing to sign up for the Regional Snapshot, which provides a daily recap of the local, provincial and federal announcements along with other resources and information, can do so here: https://www.rdek.bc.ca/about/email_group_sign_up

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