From Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart:
I know this is a stressful time for residents, especially for seniors and others who already have health concerns.
I want everyone to know that the City of Vancouver is taking this very seriously and we’re working in close coordination with the B.C. Ministry of Health, the Provincial Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health, and cities across Metro Vancouver.
Here are the steps we are taking:
Closing Restaurants and Bars
Yesterday, the Prime Minister urged all jurisdictions to take all necessary measures to slow the transmission of COVID-19.
So that’s what we’re doing.
Yesterday evening, I spoke with B.C.'s Minister of Health Adrian Dix and told him that despite requests for people to practice safe social distancing, we knew that thousands of people were still planning to come into Vancouver to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day.
Minister Dix relayed that information to Provincial Health authorities and last night Vancouver's Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Patricia Daly directed bars and restaurants in Vancouver's downtown core to shut down operations for today, Saint Patrick's Day.
This morning, revised guidance by Dr. Daly is that all bars and restaurants in Vancouver are being told to cease operations for Saint Patrick’s Day.
Establishments will still be able to officer delivery and takeout options.
Going forward, establishments are being told to comply with Dr. Bonnie Henry’s order to limit public gatherings across B.C. to no more than 50 people. All bars and restaurants must ensure no more than 50 people will be in their establishments at any given time, including staff.
I want to thank our public health officials for moving quickly and helping to keep people safe.
I know this is going to mean severe financial hardships for many small businesses and workers. I am working hard to make sure we get as many supports in place from senior governments as possible.
But for now, our top priority must be to slow transmission and flatten the curve.
Closing non-essential City services
Yesterday, we also announced that out of an abundance of caution we are suspending a number of non-essential programs and closing most civic facilities.
Part of the essential services remaining open will be the food, shelter and hygiene programs at Evelyn Saller, Carnegie and Gathering Place Community Centres. But recreation and social programs will not operate at these locations.
Daycare and childcare spaces at Park Board facilities will also remain in operation.
Most other services and places are closed including libraries, community centres, pools, rinks, and gold courses.
These changes will also allow us to re-allocate some of our staff and supplies to our COVID response, and to ensure that essential services can be maintained for the public.
Support for the most vulnerable
My top priority right now is to ensure we do what we can to slow or stop the spread of the virus, and to make sure our most vulnerable neighbours are safe -- especially seniors, those living in SROs, or residents experiencing homelessness.
We are working to support the more than 10,000 low-income residents who cannot self-isolate, many with compromised immune systems.
We are developing a plan for these folks in terms of testing, isolation and support.
Right now there is very little in the way of sanitation services for those living in SROs, in shelters, and those who are homeless. This poses a risk for both residents and staff.
We have already formed a Downtown Eastside task force with City of Vancouver staff, Vancouver Coastal Health, and BC Housing.
They have been working since Saturday and continue to look at all options for people to safely self-isolate, and to make sure SROs have the supplies they need to ensure people can stay safe and clean.
Yesterday, in a call I had with Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, I asked for support from the Federal Government to make sure our neighbours who are under-housed or homeless are safe, and to ensure no one loses their housing because of COVID 19.
Here in Vancouver I am directing our finance team to develop plans to expand our rent bank and make it easier for people to access. Plus, I will be asking the Federal Government to help us boost the funds available in the bank.
Supporting our local economy
On the economic side of things, I’m talking to the Federal and Provincial governments about the serious economic impacts that are already being felt by residents and businesses in Vancouver.
As the global economy slows, we'll need stimulus here in Vancouver and across the region.
That’s why I have convened daily calls with Metro Mayors to share best practices, and to come up with our joint asks to help support residents and businesses all across Metro Vancouver.
We have dozens of shovel-ready projects across Metro and we’re asking for clarity in how stimulus will flow.
I want to make sure it comes directly to cities, as we’re on the front lines and we know where we can put funds to use right away.
I also want to let residents of Vancouver know that we are exploring ways our local government can also support our economy.
The Vancouver Economic Commission is already in contact with representatives of impacted sectors. Together, they are working to identify supports the City and other levels of government may be able to provide for the response and recovery of our local economy.
This will include asking the Province to look at adjusting the criteria for the property tax deferment program and potential expansion to businesses
In his address, the Prime Minister said they will be announcing financial supports for vulnerable people. We need these supports in place, as quickly as possible.
Low-wage workers in the service sector and in health who are having shifts cancelled or are facing work restrictions need support now and I will be working to advocate for them at the Federal and Provincial levels.
Our next steps:
In the coming days and weeks, we will no doubt need to continue to recalibrate our response to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of residents, as well as our local economy.
I want people to know that all options are on the table and we will move quickly to keep people safe.
This includes the option to declare a local state of emergency, and I’m ready to give that declaration at any moment, if we need to.
I want all residents to know that our Staff have been working tirelessly and they are laser focused on keeping services running and keeping people safe.
These are stressful times for everyone, and I want to personally thank them for all their hard work to date. We have an extraordinary team at the City.
I also want to give a very clear message to every resident of Vancouver: Now is the time to stay calm and support our friends and neighbors who are most vulnerable.
No one needs to hoard supplies. It doesn’t help and only puts people at more risk.
We need to keep asking ourselves how we can help each other. If you have an elderly neighbour, or someone who has medical issues, ask them if they’re OK, ask them if they need anything.
Do your part and stay safe. We'll get through this together.