British Columbia

'Please do not come': Squamish joins small B.C. communities asking visitors to stay away

The District of Squamish, north of Vancouver, B.C., has joined a growing chorus of small communities asking visitors to stay away to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Harrison Hot Springs, Bowen, Denman and Hornby islands also urge visitors to stay home

The Chief is a popular hike in Squamish, B.C. All its trails were closed over the weekend because of concerns that people were not socially distancing. (Karl Woll)

The District of Squamish, located north of Vancouver, has joined a growing chorus of small communities in British Columbia asking visitors to stay away to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

On Sunday the district sent out a media release that said many people visiting the area's popular outdoor attractions weren't abiding by social distancing guidelines to keep at least two metres away from others. 

"This is not a joke, and it's not an extended holiday. You must stay home as much as possible and be responsible, today. Our health care system depends on it," said Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott in a written statement.

On Saturday Squamish RCMP sent out a tweet about "unsettling images" of busy parking lots at places like Porteau Cove, Murrin Lake and Joffre Lakes. Officers said people visiting those areas in large numbers wouldn't be able to socially distance effectively. 

On Sunday, Sea to Sky Park Services said all trails accessing the Stawamus Chief had been closed. 

On Friday, B.C. Parks closed down all campgrounds and facilities at provincial parks, but some residents told CBC News that didn't stop hundreds of people from partying on beaches in the Sea-to-Sky corridor. 

'Please do not come'

Squamish is just one of many smaller municipalities urging people to stay home and not risk bringing COVID-19 into their communities.

Earlier this week, Tofino and Ucluelet urged people to cancel or cut short their trips to the west Vancouver Island towns. Haida Gwai, and island chain off B.C.'s North Coast, issued a similar plea

Long Beach at Tofino, B.C. The west Vancouver Island town is asking tourists to stay away for now. (Ethan Sawyer/CBC)

On Friday, Bowen Island, located a short ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay on Vancouver's North Shore, asked all visitors to postpone their trips.

"We know you want to come and enjoy Bowen Island, but our message to you today is 'please do not come,' " the municipality said on Facebook. 

On Sunday, the mayor of Harrison Hot Springs in the Fraser Valley joined them, asking visitors to stay away.

Harrison Hot Springs is a popular tourist spot east of Vancouver. (Courtesy of Earla D.)

Local businesses are scaling back, the municipality said, and don't have the resources to support the thousands of tourists that normally visit the island. 

Limited resources

For many small communities, COVID-19 infections would overwhelm their limited resources.

On Saturday, Denman and Hornby islands, part of the Northern Gulf Islands, also issued a request for a break from visitors. 

Tourists from across British Columbia are drawn to Hornby Island's beaches and sunsets. (Submitted by Eileen Huster)

"With the nearest hospital two ferry rides away, an outbreak of COVID-19 would pose a particular challenge for Hornby residents," said a media release issued by the Hornby Island Economic Enhancement Corporation, adding that more than half of residents are older than 55. 

On Thursday, the Resort Municipality of Whistler said a group of people who travelled there in March tested positive for the coronavirus

The ski resort said it has since launched its emergency operations centre while its hills closed for the winter season on March 15. 


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