Ucluelet has joined its neighbour in urging residents and visitors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by masking up in public areas, along with maintaining safe social distancing and good hygiene.
“These practices are going to allow us to ensure that there is a little bit of normality on the West Coast in the coming months. We want to continue to open our region for the travelling motorists to come here and enjoy this spot,” Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel told the Westerly News.
“It’s critical. If we don’t follow good practices, all of us individually as well as businesses and local governments, what could happen is a cluster shut down and nobody wants to be involved in one of those.”
Tofino launched an educational campaign promoting mask-use on July 9, but Noel was initially hesitant to follow their lead, explaining that he’s come around on promoting masks after seeing his community fill up with tourists who don’t seem to be following provincial health guidelines.
“We like to be able to make those statements when we feel it’s appropriate to make them,” he said. “Seeing the pulse in the community and definitely there’s more visitors in the area and a lot of them are not taking precautions i.e. wearing a mask, so we wanted to make sure that we did a strong recommendation of wearing masks.”
He said he’s seeing locals wearing masks in town, but not many tourists wearing them.
“There is definitely a higher level of visitors in the area which is great but, in the next breath, it’s very evident that a lot of them are not following some of the strong recommendations of wearing a mask,” he said. “People are not masking up, but I am seeing a lot of locals are masking up…I’d like to see a bit more of it. The tourists that are coming to this area have gone from Vancouver over the ferry, through Nanaimo, through Costco and Walmart in Port Alberni and there isn’t a community that I would say is leading the way on masks for tourists or residents, including Tofino.”
He added Ucluelet’s municipal council is not currently considering any bylaws mandating masks in public areas, but added that the district is working with its destination marketing organization Tourism Ucluelet to get the message out to visitors that masks are encouraged.
“We’re hoping that everybody, every resident and tourist, at the end of the day I think we have to paint them with the same brush and just ask them all to do what’s right and make the right choice,” he said. “It’s just about being responsible.”
He said following those protocols is vital in order to keep Ucluelet’s recently reopened tourism economy safe and healthy.
“We’re just making sure that, when they are here, they follow the sound steps of social distancing, hand washing and, if you’re going to go into a tight quartered facility like a coffee shop or the Co-op, put a mask on,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re trying to do our best to get the message out because we would hate to see what happened in Kelowna be earmarked in this area.”
He added he himself began wearing a mask about two weeks ago.
“I can see that it’s necessary to lead by example,” he said. “If I’m wearing one, I’m hoping that there’s a few other people in my age group that will see that. Put your ego aside, this is what needs to be done.”