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‘We can’t handle them’: B.C. mayor pleading with Albertans not to visit during COVID-19

Please do not come to your cottage to ride out the pandemic.

That is the message Al Miller, the mayor of Invermere, B.C., is sending to Albertans who own second homes in the small Columbia Valley community of less than 4,000 residents located near the provincial border.

Miller, who said it pains him to tell people not to visit, is worried an influx of people escaping urban centres would be too much of a burden for the local health system if there is a surge in COVID-19 infections in the area.

According to Miller, the local hospital only has one ventilator and not enough beds if infections spike.

“The fact of the matter is we can’t handle them here,” he said Tuesday on Daybreak South.

Miller has no legal grounds to stop people from coming, and he understands people pay for their homes and want to escape to them, but he said he is “basically on one knee” pleading for them to understand where he, and full-time Invermere residents, are coming from.

“This is their second home, but it is our only home, so we need to protect it,” he said.

Invermere has less than 4,000 residents full time and is a popular summer holiday spot for people from Wild Rose Country. (Invermere.net/Marlene Chabot)

Please come … later

About four hours southwest of Invermere, in Nelson, B.C., a new tourism campaign with a similar message for visitors has popped up.

Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism’s new messaging is urging people to stay home using the slogan, ‘Explore Kootenay Lake … later.’

“We are not encouraging anybody to come here right now,” said Dianna Ducs, executive director of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism.

Ducs said the tourism organization, instead of focusing on attracting people to the community, is currently focusing on people who live and work in Nelson with a new feature on its website called ‘Finding Awesome Within.’

The site now functions as a resource for locals about what businesses and services are open and is being expanded to include stories 

Both Miller and Ducs want people to know, when the time is right, their communities will be thrilled to welcome them. And their local economies will probably need the boost.

But for now, the messaging from both regions is the same: Please come, just not right now.

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