Weeks after Port Renfrew and the Pacheedaht First Nation first asked non-residents to postpone visiting, the region has taken further steps to ensure residents’ safety.
Kyle Van Delft, emergency program coordinator for the Pacheedaht Nation, said the gas station in Port Renfrew has restricted access to the convenience store and is only serving propane and gas. The San Juan Market has also moved to a delivery and take-out style of service, rather than having people come in to the store.
“As unfortunate as it sounds, right now there is really no need for people to come and visit the area,” said Van Delft, adding that the campground, beaches, marinas, Soul Creek Lodge and all other accommodations and businesses are closed as well.
“Not only have we asked that non-residents don’t visit the region, but we also are asking our residents to try not to leave the community,” said Van Delft. “Should the virus start transmission within the community, the effects would be devastating, especially for such a small population. We are just trying to keep the public safe and healthy.”
Van Delft said as part of the COVID-19 response, groceries are being delivered biweekly to residents to try to discourage community members from going to town.
Port Renfrew has a population of 140 people, while the Pacheedaht Nation is around 200, with one general store and a small volunteer firefighter department of 16 people.
Mike Hicks, CRD director for the Juan de Fuca electoral district, explained that right now, everyone is in survival mode trying to wait out the storm that the pandemic has created.
He noted the community has put up signs indicating they will only serve locals, and have been very sincere about practicing social distancing.
“With a situation like this you can either fight against the waves or you can hunker down and wait,” said Hicks. “And that is what Port Renfrew has done. They’ve thrown down their anchor and they are waiting for the storm to pass.”
Both Van Delft and Hicks said they are working closely with the provincial and federal government and are taking things day by day, but for the foreseeable future, these measures will remain in place.
“We are preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best,” said Hicks.
For further information on COVID-19 in Canada, please visit canada.ca.