'Come on, you're better than that,' premier says of crowded B.C. parties, drum circles
VANCOUVER -- The premier is calling on British Columbians to do better in light of an increase in COVID-19 cases, and social media posts showing crowded gatherings in the province.
Speaking from Victoria Thursday, John Horgan said he was proud of how residents were doing as the coronavirus curve flattened. But he's since heard about a crowded drum circle at Vancouver's Stanley Park, and the dozens of confirmed cases tied to Canada Day parties in Kelowna.
"Come on, you're better than this," he said.
"We need to make sure that we're respecting not just our own space but other people's space. We're only going to be able to defeat this if we do it together."
The premier said B.C. had been making better progress than the rest of the country up until the past couple of weeks, when case numbers started to climb again.
He's appealing to all British Columbians to adhere to the public health guidelines that are still in effect.
People should stay at least two metres apart at all times, and in cases where it's not possible, they should be wearing a mask.
Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent getting the virus, and those who are sick need to stay home.
"If you do that, we'll be able to continue to open the economy so all British Columbians can benefit from that," Horgan said.
Asked about whether the province intended to step up enforcement in light of events like the drum circle, he said there are tools at B.C.'s disposal, but he thinks appealing to residents to "do the right thing" is the most successful approach.
He said he knows others have put fines in place, but that there's "no value" in anything other than reminding people to keep their distance, wear a mask and behave.
"And I say to the drummers, there's lots of coastline in British Columbia, there's lots of places for you to gather in smaller groups to indulge your musical creativity or do anything else you may want to do. But do it responsibly," Horgan said.
Regarding the cases tied to Kelowna, many of which are believed to be in patients who were visiting from elsewhere, the premier says he doesn't think travel within B.C. was encouraged too early.
He said people need to be mindful they're coming into someone else's community, and they should behave as they'd like others to behave while visiting theirs.
"That doesn't mean that you can be reckless, and some of the images I've seen in Kelowna – and look, it took me back to my youth. My buddies from here on (Vancouver Island) would go to the Okanagan to enjoy the good hospitality and spectacular weather, and great beaches… so I know what's going on here," he said.
"But you need to do that in smaller groups. You need to do that with people that you know. It's not the time to make new friends, it's the time to reinforce the relationships you do have. And again, it's not forever, it's just for right now."
He said random interactions are troublesome in part because it's hard to trace contacts if a patient who attended the event tests positive.
While the ages of those who attended the drum circle and Kelowna parties aren't known, the people in photos and video appear to be younger adults.
Horgan said one of their "buddies" contracting COVID-19 sends a clear message he believes will spread quickly.
"Young people are certainly cognizant of what their peers are doing. They're going to be using social media to say, 'This is what's happened to me. Use your common sense,'" he said.
He called it an opportunity for people to "give themselves a shake and act better," and said he thought peer pressure from parents and other young people would be a better motivator than fines or other penalties.
Horgan said his appeal to common sense is how he would talk to his own children, who are in their 30s.
"Young people are not immune. Young people are not invincible. All of us are in this together."
COVID-19 numbers elsewhere
The premier said the latest numbers – including on Thursday when the province confirmed 30 more cases and its first death in more than a week – are cause for concern, and he said it's important to look at the numbers neighbouring regions are seeing as well.
Washington state's daily average number of new cases has been 829, he said. In Alberta, the average over the last week was 116, according to the premier.
"Those are trends that are not good for our neighbours, and they're not good for British Columbians."
He said it's important for residents of the province and its leaders to think about how to protect themselves as further phases are introduced in the months ahead.
He thanked those who are following the rules, and those who responded to a government survey asking for ideas on how to respond to novel coronavirus and its economic impact.
"These are challenging times, ladies and gentlemen. This is not something that we've ever contemplated before. It's 100 years since the last pandemic. There was no guidebook on my desk when I arrived."
U.S. boaters entering B.C.
The premier also addressed American boaters following recent fines under the Quarantine Act.
Earlier this week it was announced that police had fined two U.S. residents for violations after they crossed the border by water, taking advantage of the government exemption for Americans trying to get to Alaska.
He said he's previously called on the federal government to do more about policing those entering Canada by water, not just by air and land, and thanked Ottawa for what he called a "rapid response."
He said the Trudeau Government has responded with "hefty fines" for Americans who come into Canadian waters without identifying appropriate authorities.
"I have zero problem with boaters staying in the water off the shores of British Columbia, but if you're going to dock in British Columbia, if you're not an essential traveller, you're not allowed to do that," he said.