The Pacific Rim Whale Festival has been postponed. (Westerly file photo)

Pacific Rim Whale Festival postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic

The event was set to return to Tofino-Ucluelet this month.

The Pacific Rim Whale Festival has been postponed.

The event was set to make its return to Tofino and Ucluelet this month after taking a year off in 2019, however ongoing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted festival organizers to postpone this year’s event.

READ MORE: Pacific Rim Whale Festival set for triumphant return in Tofino-Ucluelet

“While we feel that the Districts of Ucluelet and Tofino are currently safe zones we would not want this status to change. So, with heavy hearts, we feel it is our responsibility to postpone The Pacific Rim Whale Festival for March 2020. At this time all scheduled events have been cancelled,” read an announcement posted to the Pacific Rim Whale Festival’s Facebook page Friday afternoon.

The announcement comes a day after the province announced a ban on all events with more than 250 people in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Province bans large gatherings in B.C.

The festival’s postponement includes Ucluelet’s Chowder Chow Down competition, which was expected to be hosted by the Rotary Club of Ucluelet for the first time this year.

“The Rotary Club of Ucluelet has postponed the PRWF Chowder Chow Down due to Covid-19. We are following instructions from the B.C. Provincial Government banning events with over 250 attendees. We are grateful for all the support and generosity from particpants, volunteers and everyone involved but want to make the best decision for the safety of our community,” read a statement sent to the Westerly by the club’s president-elect Jeff Anderson.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Pacific Rim Whale Festival’s Chowder Chow Down winners announced in Ucluelet

No cases have been confirmed in the West Coast region as of Friday, though district officials in both towns are taking proactive steps to address public safety. During their March 10 regular council meeting, Tofino’s municipal council approved setting aside $20,000 from the district’s Financial Stability Reserve Fund for “expenditures relating to the response to COVID-19” and also announced a COVID-19 response plan.

“As the District of Tofino has done during past large-scale public health emergencies (ex. H1N1), staff have developed this response plan to strengthen preparedness at the local level for COVID-19,” read a report presented to council by emergency program coordinator Keith Orchiston. “The District of Tofino COVID-19 Response Plan supports the strategy of Island Health while accommodating the circumstances of the District of Tofino. Where possible, activities will align with regional, provincial, national and World Health Organization guidelines.”

READ MORE: B.C. recommends no travel outside Canada in coronavirus pandemic

Orchiston explained the district is currently in Stage 2 of the plan, which means public facilities like the Tofino Community Hall remain open, though communication efforts have been heightened to increase local awareness. The district recently launched a blog on its website laying out COVID-19 information for residents.

Tofino’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers told the Westerly News on Friday afternoon that the district’s recreational programs are still running, but staff are monitoring the situation.

“It’s super fluid situation at this point and we’re just trying to move forward with the best information we’re being given and following the advice of health officials,” he said. “We’re keeping a close eye on it and as a district we’re going to be meeting about it again on Monday morning to see where we are after the weekend…We haven’t cancelled anything yet, it is under consideration and we’re monitoring the situation.”

READ MORE: Do you think you have COVID-19? Here is what to do next

Ucluelet’s Forest Glen seniors’ home has announced all events scheduled for March have been cancelled.

“This is in no way a panic notice nor do we have any reason to believe that it exists in our environment. The decision was made through much research within our governing agencies, that discuss the vulnerability of seniors living facilities, that this decision has been made,” wrote Forest Glen’s administrative coordinator Cathy Whitcomb in the announcement. “Large gatherings are one of the topics that come up in most of the correspondence and information. Although our gatherings range from 10 people in the smaller events to 50-plus in our luncheons, it is our intention to protect everyone in the most effective ways we can.”

The West Coast Winter Music Society announced on Friday that a March 21 Sonic Escape concert has been cancelled.

This story is being updated

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