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COVID-19: Vernon Chamber of Commerce seeking equity on capacity limits

In an open letter, the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce says capacity limits, like hockey games, for the Interior Health region should be the same as Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island health regions. Global News

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce says an inconsistent approach to COVID-19 and vaccinations across B.C. is negatively affecting businesses in the North Okanagan.

In an open letter aimed at health officials, the chamber asked why the Interior Health region is still being limited to 50-per cent capacity for indoor events, such as hockey games, concerts and movie theatres.

The chamber then noted that Vancouver and Victoria aren’t subject to the same capacity limits. In fact, the Vancouver Canucks played Tuesday night before a near-capacity crowd of 18,870 at Rogers Arena.

Read more: COVID-19: Capacity restrictions to remain in place for Interior sports venues

“We are extremely concerned about the disparities between regions and we are calling on MLA Harwinder Sandhu and Health Minister Adrian Dix to take steps that ensure public health while allowing economic recovery to continue,” said Robin Cardew, Greater Vernon Chamber president.

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On Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked about the disparity, and she replied that there is still high rates of transmission and lower rates of immunization in the region.

Henry also said “we’re not at the point where we feel we can take that risk of allowing that type of activity to occur with the stresses that are on the healthcare system right now.”

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In response, Cardew wrote “we appreciate that Interior Health’s protocols are based on low vaccination rates in the Interior and the potential spread of Covid, but the same situation exists in other health regions.

“If patrons to an event must be double-vaccinated and wear a mask, all communities in B.C. should be treated equitably when it comes to capacity. At a minimum, Interior Health and the government need to provide a benchmark so businesses know what level of cases must be reached before capacity limits shift.”

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The chamber also said Interior Health was expected to provide an update on capacity limits on Oct. 22, but, as of Oct. 27, no clarity has been released by the health authority.

“How is someone attending a Vernon Vipers game or a concert at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre more at risk than someone pursuing those activities in Vancouver or Victoria if they all wear masks and show their vaccination passports?” Cardew asked in the open letter.

“Business owners and non-profits have taken significant measures to provide a safe environment for their patrons and staff, while navigating the financial challenges COVID-19 has created since spring 2020.

”They require a consistent set of rules and not a patchwork of protocols based on lines on a map. We would urge business owners and residents to contact the provincial government to express concerns about the two-tiered restrictions in B.C. and insist that recovery for all regions must be a priority.”

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