Mayor, councilors and staff shared a few thoughts at the end of a Committee of the Whole meeting last Thursday on the district’s role in the volatile novel coronavirus covid-19 situation that’s impacting people around the world.
“We’re relying on, and we’re putting it on our website, Public Health British Columbia, following their guidelines. Obviously, we’re watching socially what’s happening in our schools and the like. I just feel reluctant and start shutting down… especially meetings like ourselves,” Mayor Peter Busse said.
As far as cancelation of events and decisions of that nature, chief administrative officer Jeremy Denegar said that call is usually made elsewhere.
“It’s typically an overarching association that will make a decision like that,” Denegar said.
“For ourselves, as staff anyways, we are dependent on listening to and always in communication with the Centre for Disease Control, Interior Health, and so forth.”
He said things have to get pretty dire before the district government is in a position to dictate whether or not events can or can’t be held.
“We don’t have that authority unless we actually launch an emergency operations centre.”
Busse said where the situation stands now council would be reluctant to take that sort of action anyway, but that if the situation changes, that stance will change with it.
“I think we’d be loath to get involved with something like that, however we’re very cognizant and we’d be watching anything that happens within the community or surrounding community in terms of the potential of number one, the virus being here and number two, if it starts to spread. Then you’ll see a different view from us obviously, where we’ll work closely with the authorities and act if necessary.”
None of the council members or staff in attendance at the meeting had any knowledge of cancellations or alterations to events or other activities in the district as result of COVID-19 so far.
Coun. Laurie Hopfl said while it’s important not to panic, a measure of sensible preparation for any crisis situation should always be encouraged.
“Not just for this coronavirus but always, everybody should always have a couple weeks food and water and toothpaste and toilet paper and to wash their hands frequently, way more than they’re used to just right now because we are in the situation we are, and if they are sick to phone 811, that is the number they should be phoning, and not coming into the hospital.”
Denegar said the district hasn’t instituted any guidelines for employees specifically for the current pandemic.
“Our protocols are already in place regarding hygiene and sick leave, we encourage people if they’re feeling bad to take their sick days, that’s what they’re for. We are reviewing our signage in our public washrooms and staff washrooms to make sure everyone’s reminded of good hygiene.”
MP Brad Vis released a statement on the current situation following the Prime Minister’s update Thursday morning, reading in part: “Following today’s announcements from the federal and provincial governments, I ask my constituents to practice precaution, avoid non-essential travel, and enact social distancing to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We must work together to protect public health, especially the health of the elderly and the immunocompromised in our communities.
I and my staff remain available to assist constituents via phone: 604-814-5710 and email: Brad.Vis@parl.gc.ca.
However, out of an abundance of caution, my constituency office (#7 - 32650 Logan Avenue, Mission) is not open to walk-in visits, and future appointments will take place via phone or video conference. Additionally, all previously scheduled in-person meetings will now occur via phone or video conference; this includes meetings that were planned this week for communities in the Fraser Canyon.
To my constituents, please follow all Public Health Agency of Canada precautions: wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, stay away from sick individuals, cough into your sleeve, and stay home if you are sick. Phone numbers and weblinks to additional information on COVID-19 are found in the section below.
Please continue to heed advice of medical professionals, touch-base with family, friends, and neighbours regarding their well-being, and help each other. Together we will overcome this global challenge.”
The Ministry of Health and the Office of the Provincial Health Officer put out a joint statement a bit later the same day that included the following: "British Columbia's health authorities are directed to immediately move all hospitals in the province to Outbreak Response Phase 2. This means hospitals will undertake only urgent and emergency procedures and will postpone all non-urgent scheduled surgeries. Hospitals will review operating-room capacity daily to prioritize urgent and emergency cases.
"Lions Gate Hospital in the Vancouver Coastal Health region is directed to move to Outbreak Response Phase 3. This means the hospital will accept only emergency patients. Lions Gate Hospital is also preparing to open a dedicated COVID-19 unit to provide care to those with the virus.
"These measures will assist hospitals to redeploy and train essential service health-care providers on critical care related to COVID-19 to ensure sufficient medical supplies for patients and staff who need them most, and to further increase capacity to respond to the potential for a surge of COVID-19 patients requiring acute care.
"We have worked with the College of Pharmacists to advise pharmacies to provide patients with a prescription refill or an emergency supply of their medications if needed. This will give physicians more time to care for patients with acute care needs. British Columbians are asked to respect this temporary arrangement and are reminded that there is no need to stockpile medication.
"To further enhance the availability of physicians for all British Columbians, the Province will provide physicians compensation for providing virtual-care services. We have also requested all health regulators to begin emergency registration of non-practising or retired health-care professionals, including professionals from other jurisdictions and the armed forces.
"Further, we are moving to restrict visitors in long-term care to essential visits only. Essential visits include compassionate visits for end-of-life care and visits that support care plans for residents based on resident and family needs, for example, families who routinely visit to provide assistance with feeding or mobility.
"In an effort to allow 811 health-care professionals to support more people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who require assistance with other health issues, the Province has created a dedicated phone service to provide British Columbians non-medical information about COVID-19. This includes the latest information on travel recommendations and social distancing, as well as access to support and resources from the provincial and federal governments.
"British Columbians can reach service representatives seven days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., by calling 1 888 COVID19. Information is available in more than 110 languages.
"We have also taken additional action to enhance social distancing and limit transmission. These efforts are not forever, but they are important for now.
"We are issuing a new order prohibiting all public gatherings of more than 50 people. This includes indoor and outdoor sporting events, conferences, meetings, religious gatherings and other similar events.
"On the recommendation of the provincial health officer, the attorney general, minister responsible for the British Columbia Lottery Corporation, has ordered all casinos to close until further notice to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This order came into effect 11:59 a.m. today.
"We are also consulting with education stakeholders on potential recommendations for school operations following spring break."
Some additional sources of information:
Government of Canada:
- Coronavirus Hotline: 1-833-784-4397
- Website: www.canada.ca/coronavirus
Government of British Columbia:
· To view the provincial health officer's order on mass gatherings, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/current-health-topics
· For more information on B.C.'s updated testing strategy and self-isolation, visit:
· For recommendations on protecting yourself and your community, visit:
· For the COVID-19 pandemic preparedness and planning materials, visit:
· For more information and latest updates on COVID-19, follow the BC Centre for Disease Control on Twitter @CDCofBC or visit the centre's website: http://www.bccdc.ca/