Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff in her office, March 2018. (File photo)

Proximity to border becoming a concern: Osoyoos mayor

Osoyoos residents are concerned about people not quarantining after returning from the U.S.

The town Of Osoyoos’ mayor, Sue McKortoff wants people to know that her town is doing everything possible to slow the spread of COVID-19. Like many, McKortoff is working from home during the pandemic.

Osoyoos has a predominantly senior population with approximately 43 per cent of the the 5,085 residents being 65 or older. McKortoff said she’s aware that this puts her town at a serious risk if there were to be an outbreak of COVID-19.

As of April 2, there were 121 recorded cases of the virus in the Interior Health region with 10 people currently hospitalized. Provincial health authorities do not release the exact location of confirmed cases for privacy reasons.

READ MORE: Osoyoos mayor supports border closure despite economic uncertainty

McKortoff said Osoyoos has felt the impacts of COVID-19 and that the town is “probably doing as well as anywhere else” in terms of coping with the ramifications of the virus.

“Our Council and town staff are continuing to work with our provincial and federal governments and health officers to keep our community safe, and provide essential services. The provincial state of emergency declaration will ensure federal, provincial and local resources are delivered in an effort to best protect all of us in B.C.,” said McKortoff. “We’re trying the very best that we can to protect our residents.”

According to McKortoff, one of the main concerns of Osoyoos residents has to do with the town’s proximity to the border. Osoyoos borders Okanogan County in Washington state. Washington has been hit much harder by the coronavirus crisis than British Columbia, recording 6,585 cases and 262 deaths as of April 2.

McKortoff explained that Osoyoos is often a “first stop” for Canadian snowbirds returning from the United States.

“We’re finding that people are stopping here overnight before they head to wherever else they normally live.

“Some of the the concerns that we’ve heard are that people are leaving their motorhome, jumping in their car and going to get groceries, and that’s absolutely not allowed,” said McKortoff.

“We are all required to follow the mandates of our Provincial Health Officer.”

Osoyoos bylaw officers have been tasked with providing education and supporting enforcement of the Provincial Health Officer’s orders for business closures and gatherings. McKortoff said the town has received “several calls” from concerned local citizens who are asking about enforcing the rules.

Recently, McKortoff has been impressed with the ways people have come together during the pandemic. She cited how residents have come together to find “innovative ways” to connect with friends and family like Facebook and FaceTime.

Osoyoos residents are also stepping up in other ways like volunteering to help quarantined people with shopping, cheering for grocery store employees and emergency responders, and supporting local businesses when possible. McKortoff said these things have all helped to keep the community healthy and happier.

“We certainly hope this worldwide pandemic will ease its drastic hold on us all soon. In the meantime, look after yourselves and your loved ones, and know that we are continuing to use best practices in our town to help all of us work through this stressful time,” said McKortoff.

Osoyoos residents with concerns are asked to contact the local Emergency Operations Center at 250.495.4635, or email eoc@osoyoos.ca.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Concerns over open border linger for Osoyoos residents

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