District of Kent officials expressed their support of the new restrictions for Agassiz-Harrison and the eastern Fraser Valley to encourage vaccination against COVID-19.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said effective immediately, there would strict restrictions on unvaccinated individuals attending social and organized gatherings in Abbotsford, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs, Hope, Chilliwack, Mission and smaller communities throughout the eastern Fraser Valley.
“We have to get the pandemic under control,” said District Mayor Sylvia Pranger. “We want to try and keep hospitals in Chilliwack and Hope still able to cope with any issues.”
Chilliwack General Hospital is just coming out of an outbreak, and Henry said the rules came about because unvaccinated COVID-19 patients are putting strain on local hospitals.
“Not only are people with COVID having challenges and stressing our ICUs but people with other conditions are having surgeries postponed or not getting the care they need,” Henry said. “We need to take action now to increase vaccination rates and to reduce transmission rates in those high-risk settings in our communities.”
COVID-19 cases in Agassiz-Harrison have been on the rise for five weeks with three of those weeks consecutively breaking records.
“Fraser Health has seen the lowest immunization rates in these communities and in turn, the highest case rates which has led to impacts on our schools, workplaces and hospitals in the Fraser East region,” eastern Fraser Valley mayors said in a joint statement. “Now is the time for all of us to help protect our communities by getting vaccinated.”
Indoor social gatherings are limited to five additional people or one additional household. Outdoor gatherings will be kept to 10 unless everyone present is fully vaccinated.
Indoor ticketed events such as movies and sporting events and indoor fitness facilities – including all activities at the district’s Community Recreation and Cultural Centre (CRCC) – require everyone to be fully vaccinated to attend, not partially vaccinated like the rest of the province.
District council previously approved a grace period ending Oct. 24 for everyone 12 and older seeking to access the CRCC. Officials have since confirmed the provincial orders cancel this grace period; two-dose proof will now be required effective Sept. 28.
In a call with Henry, Minister of Health Adrian Dix and area mayors, Pranger and Harrison Hot Springs Mayor Leo Facio both noted every mayor was in support of the additional measures.
“If we all do our part and we’re all careful, we will make it through,” Pranger said. “What’s being asked of us, in my opinion, is the least we can do.”
Facio expressed pride in the residents and staff of the village, applauding their diligence in complying with COVID-19 protocols and doing their part to keep thousands of visitors to the village safe.
“People are naturally frustrated with the restrictions and the uncertainty, but we will get through this together with patience and kindness,” Facio added in a statement to The Observer.
As of publication, Fraser Health has administered 2,841,581 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
– With files from Katya Slepian