Whether it’s a quick stop by Botanical Beach or a visit to Big Lonely Doug, Port Renfrew’s community leaders say it’s time to put those day trips on hold.
The close-knit community of around 400 people sends the message to anyone outside their borders to avoid all non-essential travel until Dec. 7. The request is twinned with the latest provincial health orders.
“Any spread of the virus could quickly overwhelm our first responders,” said Karl Ablack, chair of the Port Renfrew Recovery Task Force, which was formed after the first wave of COVID-19 hit in March.
“At the end of the day, people are going to do what they want to do, but there are minimal resources here.”
Port Renfrew has one general store, a gas station and limited phone service. Though the town has a small volunteer fire department and an ambulance station that runs 24/7, the closest hospitals are two hours away in Duncan and Victoria.
The Port Renfrew Recovery Task Force is comprised of first responders, businesses and community stakeholders. The chamber of commerce boasts around 70 members, and the community mostly relies on larger cities for schools, medical services, retail shops and groceries.
New cabins are being built in Port Renfrew, recreational properties to visit, and provincial parks to walk through, but Ablack says the thought of dropping by should be off the table for the safety of all.
Kyle van Delft, manager of the Pacheedaht First Nation emergency preparedness program, said his group is more prepared for a confirmed case or a potential outbreak of COVID-19 if it should hit, as it’s stocked with enough personal protection equipment for first responders and residents – something that couldn’t be said during the initial lockdown in March.
More than 600 litres of hand sanitizer and 550 reusable masks have been distributed to the Pacheedaht First Nation, said van Delft. Also, thousands of disposable masks have been handed out throughout the community.
As for protesters across the province who have defied health orders or refused to wear a mask, Ablack said they hadn’t had any issues. He said the community has stayed positive and followed Health Ministry COVID protocols.
Port Renfrew’s task force reminds its residents to avoid non-essential trips to larger communities throughout the South Island such as Duncan, Sooke or Victoria.
“We’re proud of the fact we haven’t had a single case or an outbreak to this point,” Ablack said. “Hopefully, things can remain the same.”
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