Spring break is normally one of Whistler’s busiest periods of the year for tourism, but it goes without saying that this year’s period has quickly taken a different turn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton made a public plea, asking the wider community to avoid his community completely, until further notice.
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While all levels of government are urging the public to stay home and only make essential trips, outdoor activity is still technically permitted.
And with closures mounting and business coming to a halt, some people are still making trips to Whistler, despite the closure of Whistler Blackcomb’s facilities, municipal public parks and recreational facilities, Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, and various provincial parks, including Joffre Lakes, Murrin, Shannon Falls, and Stawamus Chief.
“Please do not come to Whistler,” he said in a statement. “I want to re-emphasize that now is not the time to travel to Whistler and the Sea-to-Sky corridor.”
During peak tourist seasons in the year, the town of 12,000 residents can swell to well over 40,000 people with the influx of day visitors, overnight tourists, and seasonal workers.
The municipal government is attempting to not only prevent the spread of COVID-19 but also reduce the strain on the town’s limited resources.
Food and essential supply sources are limited; there are only two grocery stores in Whistler, including the large IGA Plus at Marketplace supermarket and the Whistler Grocery Store near the core of Whistler Village, and the town has just a few pharmacies.
There are also limited medical facilities and personnel in the town. Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) Whistler Health Care Centre only has 15 stretchers for emergency care, and four triage stretchers in the trauma bay.
“Our focus right now is on the health and safety of our community, especially our healthcare workers and other essential workers including those in our grocery stores, food services and pharmacies… Our municipality is only providing essential services right now and all of our non-essential facilities have been closed.”
Crompton is asking his residents and in-town visitors to practice physical distancing, avoid gatherings, and only leave their shelter for essential trips.
“Now is not the time to come to Whistler. Now is not the time to travel outside your own community. Please stay home and take care of yourself and your family,” continued his statement.
“When we are able, we look forward to welcoming you back again with wide open arms.”
Even just under two weeks ago, the resort mountain town was still brimming with tourists.
Some coronavirus cases have been linked to recent travel to Whistler. Last Friday, VCH reported that a group who travelled to Whistler from March 8 to 13 tested positive for coronavirus.