UPDATE: Harrison Hot Springs declares state of emergency, officially closed to visitors

Village announcement and open letter from residents express concern for community amid COVID-19

Residents of Harrison Hot Springs are sending a clear but gut-wrenching message to would-be tourists during the pandemic – stay home.

Only 12 hours after the residents’ open letter went public, village officials issued the official closure notice and a declaration of a state of emergency.

Saturday night: From the Residents

As spring emerges and the weather begins to warm up, people from all over the Lower Mainland tend to flock to Harrison’s beaches and town. A busy and crowded few days over the course of the past weekend in the village’s most scenic and sunny spots and the subsequent unrest via local social media prompted the writing of the open letter and the official notice soon after, strongly advising tourists to do their part during the coronavirus outbreak.

“This is a hard message for us to send as we know how many of your cherish Harrison Hot Springs, but we as you to respect our community and this request to stay home for now,” the open letter from the residents reads. “We…fully understand the inclination to seek escape in the outdoors during difficult times, but the reality is that doing so right now risks lives in this area.”

The residents’ open letter, dated March 21 at 10 p.m., asks those who are not primary residents of Harrison Hot Springs and those who do not provide essential services to the community to stay away from the area at this time.

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“The reason is simple. As a small, residential community, we have a very vulnerable population, who, if infected with COVID-19, could experience severe and possibly life-ending complications,” the letter continues.

The letter’s author or authors don’t imply the weekend visitors were not practicing social distancing or other government recommended practices. Rather, it appears only to express a wish to protect the community’s most vulnerable people.

This letter is similar to one issued by the community of Cultus Lake earlier this week.

“If we all work together to do the right thing during this public health crisis, we’ll all be able to enjoy the Harrison Hot Springs area in a responsible and respectful way sooner rather than later,” the author or authors continue. “This is an important time for all British Columbians and Canadians to come together in support of others on a local and global level. As a group and as individuals, we are committed to doing everything we can to flatten the curve and not allow this serious virus to spread.”

The letter concludes with encouragement to share the message via social media.

“Thank you and stay safe.”

The Official Notice and Declaration

The village’s notice on Sunday morning was simple and to the point, stating the village was officially close to visitors.

“We look forward to welcoming you back to our beautiful resort municipality after the authorities have advised that it’s safe to travel again,” the statement reads.

Mayor Leo Facio released a statement on Sunday afternoon, declaring a state of local emergency (SOLE). This involves the closure of Esplanade Avenue, recreational facility areas and public washrooms in an effort to encourage visitors to stay away – just for now.

“During this time of unprecedented public health concerns I want to assure residents that the Village Council and staff are taking every precaution to help ‘flatten the curve’ on the spread of COVID-19,” the mayor said in Sunday’s statement. “Under the SOLE order, provisions have been put in place to restrict visitors from using or accessing public spaces within the jurisdiction of the municipality.”

RELATED: B.C.’s top doctor orders immediate closure of salons, spas and other personal services

The statement goes on to acknowledge the severe impact on local businesses by virtually halting tourism to the area and that many have already taken steps to practice social distancing as recommended by health authorities.

“Again, I want to wish you and your families well during these challenging times,” Facio concluded, echoing his address from earlier last week. “We are all in this together, and please remember that we will come out the other side of it as a community, stronger and more resilient than ever.”

The village has already closed their offices to the public. Emergency services and utilities will continue to function uninterrupted.



adam.louis@ahobserver.com

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