Vancouver Island business leaders call for regional COVID-19 restrictions
VICTORIA -- As daily COVID-19 caseloads continue to break records in B.C. and health officials say we are entering into a pandemic "danger zone," Vancouver Island business leaders say now is the time to reward regions where infections remain low.
"We are really encouraging the provincial government to balance the great advice we get from the provincial health officer with the economic impact of doing things one-size fits all," said Jeff Bray with the Downtown Victoria Business Association.
A bolstered call for a regional approach to any looming restrictions during the pandemic's second wave is echoing across southern Vancouver Island.
"We are hearing some frustration that the entire province is being painted with the same brush," CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Bruce Williams, told CTV News Vancouver Island.
"People are saying that we are abiding by the rules here and have really never seen a bump in cases," he said.
Despite B.C.'s Ministry of Health giving extra power to regional health authorities last week, which allows some control over smaller COVID-19 restrictions, anything imposed by the province itself sweeps from one border of B.C. to the other.
This is a different approach than other provinces, like Ontario, have taken.
Doug Ford's government has gone about imposing restrictions on a regional basis. If health officials in that province see an issue in one area, focused rules can be handed down specifically to that region.
On Vancouver Island, where cases have remained low, business owners are expecting more restrictions to come as cases get worse in B.C. However, they say that not every area of the province should be treated equally.
"It really isn't fair to regions like Vancouver Island that are working so hard to keep cases under control to be mandated with the same restrictions that other places might be," said Moon Underwater Pub owner, Anne Farmer.
"How often can you be put down, and still rise up again?" she said.
Farmer's pub and brewery has abided by all COVID-19 restrictions and despite some major financial hardships has kept its doors open.
She says when the province recently slapped a B.C.-wide restriction on alcohol sales after 10 p.m., cases on Vancouver Island were barely trending upwards, while the explosive growth of cases on the Lower Mainland continued.
"We hope there is no rise in cases," said Bray. "But if it's happening in the Fraser Health region that is probably where you should be having restrictions."
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that a regional approach to restrictions is not off the table, but also mentioned that B.C.'s success during the pandemic has been based on a concerted province-wide effort to stamp out the disease.
Infections disease experts also say regional restrictions are complicated by inter-provincial travel.
As of Nov. 2, 9,049 COVID-19 cases have been found in the Fraser Health region and 4,898 have been recorded in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
Elsewhere in the province, the Island Health region has reported 265 COVID-19 cases, the Interior Health region has confirmed 777 and the Northern Health region has diagnosed 422. Ninety people who live outside of Canada have tested positive for COVID-19 in B.C.
On Monday, B.C.'s deputy provincial health officer Dr. Réka Gustafson said there is no magic number of new cases that would spark fresh COVID-19 restrictions.
This is a multi-part story.
On Wednesday, CTV will speak to Ontario and B.C.-based infections disease experts to see how current restriction systems are working in their regions.