So sorry to everyone who was tuned in at 3:30 today; Facebook broke and we couldn’t get the livestream connected. Bonus is the video is now on Facebook AND Youtube so I’ve linked it here for easy viewing. Tomorrow and beyond we’ll be doing the daily Facebook Live at 2:30pm here on the City’s Facebook page. We’ve moved the daily address to 2:30 to make it easier for TV media to tune in and then get their stories ready for the 5:00pm news. We rely on the media to help get the information and the stories out, and we thank them for doing so!
News from the province
Under the Emergency Program Act, Minister Farnworth today issued a series of ministerial orders to ensure a co-ordinated response to COVID-19 across all levels of government for the duration of the provincial emergency. These include:
- Establishing a new Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to co-ordinate goods and services distribution.
- Banning the secondary resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other essential supplies; and restricting quantities of items purchased at point of sale.
- Enabling municipal bylaw officers to support enforcement of the provincial health officer’s orders for business closures and gatherings
- Ensuring all passenger and car-ferry services provide minimum service levels and priority access for residents, and essential goods and workers.
- Making it easier to support critical services for vulnerable people, like food banks and shelters – the province can requisition any public facilities for these needs.
- Suspending local states of emergency specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, giving municipal councils the ability to hold more flexible meetings to expedite decisions; and co-ordinating potential use of local publicly owned facilities, like community centres, for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution.
- Issuing a new order with respect to people who use substances and the provision of a safe supply to protect their health. Minister Dix called this a necessary public health practice given the two public health emergencies we are facing, the opioid crisis and the COVID pandemic.
What this means for the City is that our debate on declaring a local state of emergency was suspended, and we continue to work with the province on other aspects of emergency response.
News from the City
Today Council passed a motion to strongly advocate to the Province on behalf of small businesses and non-profits which have been affected by the pandemic in Victoria. We’re asking for rent relief and halting evictions during the state of emergency. April 1st is coming as quickly for small businesses with leases as it is for residential tenants. Council appreciates the actions the Province took to provide rent relief to tenants, which also puts money into the hands of landlords. We hope to see swift action from the Province to support small businesses in BC. In Victoria, these businesses are the lifeblood of our community.
Continuing to advance work on sheltering, the City has secured 35 motel rooms for people who are currently homeless. The rooms will be funded through Emergency Management BC (EMBC). Thanks to our hard working Emergency Operations Centre staff who secured these rooms. We’re working with the Coalition to End Homelessness and the Coordinated Assessment and Access process to get people inside as soon as possible. This is just the tip of the iceberg and there is much more to do. BC Housing is working hard to secure further rooms and indoor sheltering locations.
The people going to the motel rooms booked by the City through EMBC are healthy and not exhibiting symptoms they are just experiencing homelessness right now. This is part of the overall coordinated response to provincial direction for social distancing for everyone.
Yesterday we talked about some of the interim shelter options in parks that Island Health, BC Housing, the City, and service providers are working on. We’re guided in this effort by Island Health Chief Medical Officer Dr Richard Stanwick, who has been closely involved in this process.
“In these extraordinary times extraordinary measures will be required to slow the transmission of Covid-19, said Dr. Stanwick. “These efforts will help enable our health care system to prepare for and to respond to the surge of cases expected with this pandemic. Some measures will be for the duration of the pandemic while others will be for staging prior to another measure. The use of our parks to improve physical distancing is one of these measures. Island Health is working with the Mayor, BC Housing and other community partners to identify additional approaches and methods to improve social distancing.”
This is a fast developing situation, and urgent response is needed. Things are changing daily, and we are working from the direct advice of health care professionals. In order to maximize efficiency and to get sites open as soon as possible we are now focusing on establishing two temporary outdoor sites – Topaz Park and Royal Athletic Park, not Beacon Hill Park at this time.
Indoor shelter options are coming soon. I’ve been asked over the last couple of days about self-isolation beds for people without homes. I’m pleased to say that Island Health has identified beds for members of the street community who may present as symptomatic.
After my daily Facebook live yesterday, we received an e-mail from a wheelchair user regarding the additional health risk at this time for wheelchair users caused by people spitting on the ground. Please don’t spit on the ground! It’s more important than ever to keep hands and wheels clean. Also, please do be aware that everyone is trying to practice social distancing. Wheelchair users cannot step off a sidewalk to provide distance. Please do be aware of others around you. Let’s try to keep everyone in our community well and safe.