Clinton Budget Foods has not been immune to people clearing the shelves amid fears about the COVID-19 virus. (Photo credit: Wendy Coomber)

A global pandemic becomes local for small B.C. communities

A Clinton business faces empty shelves and local groups curtail activities

By Raven Nyman

This spring, children around the world will likely experience an extended school break, while adults around them may resort to checking their news feeds a bit more regularly in the wake of the global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

Canada is one of the latest countries to close its borders to foreign travellers in hopes of flattening the curve of the virus’s infection rate. Meanwhile, an influx of federal and national recommendations have spurred Canadians into prescribed social distancing and increased efforts to wash our hands.

As our global population hangs together in somewhat of a paradox, we find ourselves forcibly connected—though not physically intertwined—as we’re requested to simultaneously look out for, yet keep our distance from, each other.

This symbolic union or “coming together” is a positive one, a necessity that has arisen from the need to do just the opposite, actually: isolate ourselves. In Italy, Iran, the United States, and even here in Canada, we’re all facing the same threat. The novel coronavirus knows no borders and yet, in its hastening journey across the globe, it threatens to separate us from one another for the foreseeable future.

It’s not just vacation plans or global stock markets in some far-away metropolis that have been affected, either. The threat, and accompanying fear, attached to COVID-19 is shutting down facets of small town life, too.

In the Village of Clinton—home to about 600 people—regular life has been disrupted. Events have been postponed, meetings cancelled, and just like in the city, hand sanitizer and toilet paper have completely sold out.

But unlike major urban centres such as Vancouver or Toronto, Clinton only has one grocery store to choose from. While it boasts no transit buses, stoplights, or movie theatres, its citizens have still felt the effects of COVID-19’s global impact, and business owners have noticed, too.

Ruby and Nav Panag moved to town with their son just under a month ago to take ownership of the Village’s only grocery store, Clinton Budget Foods. On March 10, their weekly shipment of toilet paper arrived and sold out before the day’s end.

“We got our delivery around 9 a.m. and we were all out by noon,” says Ruby. “People are a little panicked. They’re buying stuff to store, I guess. We’ve been a bit busier this week.”

The Panag family has placed a new order to replenish the toilet paper supply at Budget Foods. It’s set to arrive on March 17, but Ruby says it’s likely that hand sanitizer won’t be available until the end of the month.

“For hand sanitizers, all the vendors are out of stock as well.” She thinks the panic buying may slow down soon, and hopes sanitizer will be available before April. “[People] ask us ‘Where’s the toilet paper?’ and it’s all gone.”

She adds that shoppers shouldn’t be panicked, but stories of other sold out shops have people playing catch-up, perhaps. “They’re reading news that every store is out of toilet paper now. That’s why they want to stock up. I think it will get normal in a week or so.”

Budget Foods is also a gas station, and Clinton doesn’t house a chain grocery store or even a farmers’ market. Residents must travel half-an-hour south or almost an hour north by vehicle for those options.

“Understandably, there are a lot of fears about the novel coronavirus,” acknowledged Clinton Mayor Susan Swan in a Village statement released on March 16. “Interior Health assures us the risk of contracting COVID-19 in British Columbia’s Southern Interior is low.

“Our citizens are encouraged to stay calm and not panic buy or hoard essential items so that everyone can attend to the needs of their families.”

During this time, seniors and those with underlying health conditions are most at risk. Swan asked residents to take precautions when interacting with the most vulnerable. The Village is taking the necessary steps to keep its first responders, employees, and the public safe, she said.

“We continue to monitor the situation and review the advice being provided by the health authorities and regional Emergency Operations Centre.”

Some Clintonites are scared and anxious, while some aren’t sure what to believe, and others seem less concerned.

A local adult walking group—Get WITH It—has cancelled its meetings until the fall. “When we reviewed our attendees we realized that almost exclusively they were over 60, some with various health conditions that could prove to be a danger if they got sick,” explains organizer Charlene Walker-Boscott.

“Although it would have been possible to practice a good degree of social distancing, [the group] had become a great place for many of us to socialize. In fact some people came just for that reason. Now with new measures coming in from [the government] I think suspending the group until fall was a good decision.”

The Spirit of Clinton Committee will meet this week, arranging their chairs to accommodate social distancing, while a string of other upcoming meetings and local events also hang in the balance as organizers struggle to determine whether or not to cancel plans.

For now, the Village’s primary social meeting space, its Memorial Hall—which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year—will remain open to user groups. However, the hall’s kitchen will be off limits and the situation will be monitored continually.

“Changes will be announced as required,” noted Swan. “Meetings may be allowed to proceed with observance of social distancing and hand washing. However please contact the Village of Clinton office [250-459-2261] for more information, as the situation is changing by the hour.”

The Village’s essential services—water, sewer, and road safety maintenance—will operate as usual. Swan added that increased cleaning is being carried out within the Village office, fitness centre, and public washrooms.

Do you have Clinton news? Contact Raven Nyman at

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