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Comox Valley mayors look back on 2 years of COVID-19 pandemic

March 11 marks the two-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic.

Since then, changing orders from health officials in B.C. have shown ups and downs, with mask mandates among others being lifted on the anniversary. Mayors in the Comox Valley echoed the challenges created in the pandemic, but they point out the highlights amidst a difficult time for the community.

“The last two years has not been easy on everyone. Moving forward, we know there are positives to look towards,” said Comox Mayor Russ Arnott in a statement to Vista Radio Friday. “Now our eyes are set towards the future and how we can keep protecting each other with the realities that exist in a COVID-19 world.”

Arnott said the top priority was to keep their staff and community safe, implementing the Patio and Parklet Program and supporting local businesses through Comox Business in Action to provide provincial and federal grant awareness and to encourage the community to shop local.

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The mayor also noted struggles faced by the Comox Community Centre with changing public health orders.

“Navigating through those challenges and providing the most optimal experience for the community has never strayed and I applaud the staff at the Community Centre for their willingness to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances,” Arnott added.

Over in Courtenay, mayor Bob Wells said he is very proud of how the community has worked together through all the changes. He said community members staying home when they were sick, hand washing and getting vaccinated all contributed to the success he’s seen in the community.

“I think that really speaks to our community and its willingness to really support each other,” said Wells. “This has been also devastating to many businesses, to people who have been infected by COVID-19 or maybe a family member. I think that we really do have to recognize as we come out of these restrictions that not everybody’s in the same place and making sure everyone is patient with each other.”

He said respecting people where they’re at is most important in looking after the community. He also asked for patience as certain changes will now need to happen.

“As we go from pandemic to endemic, we need to make sure we’re doing it in a thoughtful way and we’re not literally ripping our masks off and throwing them in the garbage.”

The province echoed many of the statements made by Arnott and Wells, adding that health has been a struggle, but British Columbians can get through anything.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on our lives, with social activities, entertainment, gatherings, sports and many other events cancelled or held virtually,” said a joint statement from the premier and health officials. “Schools and post-secondary institutions went online temporarily, and hundreds of thousands of businesses closed their doors through the worst of the pandemic to help keep staff and customers safe.”

Island Health medical health officer Dr. Charmaine Enns says she is proud of the efforts from healthcare and residents on the Island.

“I’m very proud of the citizens on Vancouver Island and the communities and the amount of cooperation, collaboration and general participation in doing what needed to be done throughout the different phases of the pandemic,” said Enns.

She reminds others that healthcare workers have been feeling the same stress as many have been working long hours and have families along with other commitments.

“It’s been hard for people but they’re professionals and healthcare workers from my perspective have done the professional thing and they have stepped up,” said Enns.

She says residents now need to monitor their own symptoms and begin treating COVID like a seasonal respiratory illness.

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