Coronavirus: Thinking of a hike this weekend? B.C. search-and-rescue crews say you’re putting them at risk

Search-and-rescue teams are pleading with British Columbians to stay out of the backcountry over the long weekend amid concerns about spreading COVID-19.

“This sunny weather this weekend has got us worried a lot of people are going to start to wander out into the backwoods,” said Dwight Yochim, a senior manager with the B.C. Search and Rescue Association.

Yochim said, for the most part, B.C. residents have been heeding health officials’ calls to keep close to home, noting that call-outs have dropped about 50 per cent over the last two weeks.

Performing a rescue during the pandemic causes major headaches for crews, who typically see 20 to 30 people respond to a call-out, said Yochim.

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Those volunteers need to try and keep two-metres apart at the rally point and on the trail, and only one person can access the command centre at a time.

When they find the search subject, it’s even trickier.

“They have to take precautions in case the subject may have COVID-19. There’s personal protective equipment they put on, they put on the subject,” he said.

“You try to limit the number of people that are making the contact, but it just creates another level of risk.”

B.C. has closed its provincial parks, and parking lots for some key recreational areas like North Vancouver’s Lynn Headwaters have also been shuttered.

But Yochim warned that parks only account for about 14 per cent of B.C., meaning there’s still plenty of backcountry for people to get lost in.

Earlier this week, Premier John Horgan asked British Columbians to find a way to get some fresh air closer to home.

“Nothing is better for one’s sense of well-being than to have the sun on your face and the calmness of being outdoors,” said Horgan.

“But you don’t have to be in a park to experience that. You can be in your own community, you can be in your own neighbourhood.”

-With files from Catherine Urquhart

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