|Mayor’s Statement - COVID-19||March 17, 2020|
June 3, 2020
I don’t feel I have the right words to describe all the emotions that washed over me after the news of George Floyd’s murder by a police officer in Minnesota last week. The knowledge that this is not an isolated incident but an example of systemic, widespread racism has shaken me to my core and left me asking what I can do to make a difference. While much of the media coverage focuses on the United States, we know racism continues in Canada and even in Chilliwack, and we need to stand together against it.
Chilliwack is growing more diverse and being a more inclusive community is very important to me. Being able to participate in the Mayor’s Task Force on Inclusiveness, Diversity and Accessibility is exciting, because I know that learning from people with lived experience will help me better understand what needs to change locally. I will use my role as Co-Chair to listen, to make marginalized and oppressed voices heard and make changes to build an equitable and inclusive community.
If you’ve been wondering how you can make a difference, I encourage you to learn something new about minority groups in Chilliwack and the rest of Canada. For example, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation have numerous resources available online.
It’s time to have those uncomfortable conversations about racism. It’s past time that we listen to those who haven’t been heard and extend kindness to everyone. Be kind, respectful and curious. When we stop and listen to one another, we have the opportunity to gain new perspectives. This way, I hope we can move forward together as a stronger, more diverse community.
Mayor Ken Popove
May 26, 2020
Typically, graduation is an exciting time of the year, full of senior class trips, graduation events and other activities that create lifelong memories. I’m sure many of us still look back on that final year of school fondly. I remember how great it was to walk the hallways of school, feeling like I was more than ready to leave high school behind and take on the next phase of my life with confidence.
The class of 2020 is missing out on that experience. They don’t get to enjoy senior class events and activities. There are no senior class pranks. Most importantly, they don’t get to proudly walk across the stage as family and friends cheer on their accomplishment. While I applaud those getting creative with planned virtual activities, we know they can’t replace the real thing and that loss is felt deeply by our grads.
To the graduating class of 2020, I want you to know that your future is bright. Finishing your last year at home was a difficult challenge, but you did it and should be proud of all you have accomplished. You’ve put in the hard work and are ready to take on the next phase of your life.
Congratulations to Chilliwack’s 2020 grads!
May 22, 2020
As we enter Phase 2 of BC’s Restart Plan, we have the opportunity to support local businesses that are open and operating in a safe manner.
This is an exciting time for everyone that has been eagerly anticipating the re-opening of restaurants, hair salons and various stores in the retail sector. Some businesses are already open, while others are working hard to open their doors soon. At the end of the day, everyone’s shared goal is to open in a safe manner based on their individualized COVID-19 Safety Plans, as required by WorkSafeBC.
While it is exciting, it is also a time of learning in the midst of various levels of anxiety. I encourage you to treat our local businesses with respect and kindness as they learn new ways of doing business. WorkSafeBC has stressed that it is their goal to help businesses operate safely during this time, which is a goal we all share. If something needs to be addressed in terms of safety for both staff or customers, WorkSafeBC will look into that.
If you are comfortable participating in Phase 2 of BC’s Restart Plan, now is the time to get out and support local. If you have a compromised immune system or feel uncomfortable being out in public at this time, please stay home and put your health first.
Let’s come together as a community and work together towards economic recovery for everyone in Chilliwack. Choose to support local businesses and keep funds within Chilliwack. If you’re wondering what’s open right now, check out the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce’s website.
Mayor Ken Popove
May 20, 2020
I’m excited to announce that effective Friday, May 22, all skate parks and outdoor sports courts, including tennis and pickleball courts, hockey, soccer and basketball courts will be open to the public. Signage reminding users of physical distancing guidelines will be installed in strategic locations. Where applicable, rules for safe play incorporating recommendations from sports associations, such as Tennis BC and Pickleball BC, will also be posted.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, has encouraged people to safely enjoy the outdoors in the company of immediate family members, while maintaining appropriate physical distancing from others. More recently, she said that the chance of catching COVID-19 from someone as they walk past you in a park is “infinitesimally small”.
Outdoor recreation opportunities are important for mental and physical health, and the City will continue to follow provincial guidelines from the Ministry of Health, as well as the BC Parks and Recreation Association. All outdoor facility users should continue to take precautions and stay home if sick.
Staying active is an important element of mental wellness. As we carefully move towards a new normal together, it’s important that everyone using these spaces remembers to stay six feet apart and practice good hand hygiene. Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it as needed.
For more information about the City’s response to COVID-19, visit chilliwack.com/COVID19.
May 13, 2020
As we work to keep the business of the City moving forward, we are using different tools and facing new challenges. One of the biggest speed bumps we encountered has been how to incorporate physical distancing guidelines while conducting the day-to-day business of the City.
Most City business cannot take a break because of a pandemic. For example, committees like the Design Review Advisory Committee and the Affordable Housing and Development Advisory Committee must continue to meet in order to conduct City business. Other groups, like the Chilliwack Economic Recovery Network, were formed and meet virtually to address the needs of our business community during COVID-19.
While many virtual meetings over the last few months have happened out of necessity, some have happened out of pure excitement. Yesterday, the Mayor’s Task Force on Inclusiveness, Diversity and Accessibility (MTFIDA) met virtually for the first time. The group had an opportunity to connect, discuss committee values and look forward to what’s ahead.
One value that came up in our discussion was to be open minded. Members of the MTFIDA want to have the opportunity to challenge opinions, and have real conversations that provide an opportunity to learn and grow. We have placed a value on education and personal development for everyone that calls Chilliwack home.
The committee hopes to offer residents some virtual learning opportunities in the coming months, such as an anti-racism workshop. Engaging with everyone in Chilliwack is important to this group and we look forward to providing many opportunities for engagement around the values of inclusiveness, diversity and accessibility.
May 4, 2020
May 4-10, 2020 is Mental Health Week in Canada, an opportunity to highlight the importance of mental health. As we wait to see what our new nor
Closer to home, Chilliwack Community Services has started providing free counselling support for anyone struggling with COVID-19. Therapeutic support over the phone is available for anyone trying to cope with anxiety, depression, loneliness, grief and loss while living and working through this uncertain time.mal will look like, it is understandable that many people may be experiencing anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges as a result of the pandemic. In response to this, the Province recently announced they are expanding mental health programs and launching new virtual services.
There are many ways to take care of yourself and ensure continued good mental health. Chilliwack Healthier Community, recently released The Elements of Mental Wellness, which outlines nine essential activities, with examples, that you can do to improve your mental health. When I need to relax and de-stress, I turn to gardening. Working with my hands and being connected to nature helps me feel grounded. I spent the weekend working in my garden and found it very relaxing.
I hope that residents will take advantage of these local and provincial services and actively take care of themselves, both physically and mentally. Don’t forget to follow #ChilliwackTogether on social media to help stay connected and see how your neighbours and friends are supporting each other right now. Even though we have to be physically apart, we can still be connected.
April 23, 2020
Today, the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister for Families, Children and Social Development, announced that the Government of Canada designated Chilliwack as one of the six new communities selected to receive funding to prevent and reduce homelessness under the Designated Communities stream of Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy.
We were excited to learn of our successful application to become a “Designated Community”. This means that Chilliwack will be receiving $1.7 million in funding over the next four years to prevent and reduce homelessness in Chilliwack.
In its first year, the City will receive $296,000; this will increase to $473,000 annually in subsequent years. The City will manage these funds and establish a community advisory board to support local decision making on how funds will be allocated, in accordance with community priorities and a community plan. Part of the funding will also be used to design and implement a coordinated intake process for individuals and families who are experiencing or at-risk of homelessness by 2021-22.
In the midst of all the concerns surrounding the current COVID-19 pandemic, we haven’t forgotten about the most vulnerable members of our community and are happy that we will be able to continue taking steps forward to help those who most need it.
April 20, 2020
School provides students with much more than structured learning. It is a social outlet, a second home, and for some, a place to receive food when they are hungry. According to Chilliwack Community Services, approximately 600 children in Chilliwack come back to school hungry every Monday morning. To help address that, the Starfish Pack program was created to send home backpacks full of food for children and their families over the weekend during the school year. Without school proceeding as scheduled, these same children and families aren’t receiving the assistance they regularly rely on.
While some of us have been very fortunate to remain employed during the COVID-19 pandemic, I know many others have lost their jobs and could use some assistance. Over the past few weeks, people have been asking me about ways they can help others during this difficult time. After helping distribute hampers through the Starfish program, I wanted to share more about the program and challenge those of you who are able to support it.
Each week, Starfish program volunteers work to put together over 300 hampers of food. By May, they expect to be distributing close to 400 hampers per week. The approximate cost per hamper is $12, and the program needs donations in order to keep filling hampers each week.
I am issuing a Mayor’s challenge to raise funds for the Starfish Pack program. If you are fortunate enough to be in a position to help, I encourage you to donate to the program as part of my challenge. I’m throwing in the first $100 and hope you will join me!
Ways to donate:
Online at www.comserv.bc.ca
Thank you, Chilliwack, for stepping up to the challenge to help others during this time.
April 15, 2020
Over the long weekend, our Fire Department was dispatched to help a neighbouring community with a reported wildfire. Along with BC Wildfire Service and Chilliwack River Valley fire fighters, our crews aggressively attacked the fire that was quickly spreading up a steep hill in a heavily wooded area. Thankfully they were able to swiftly extinguish the fire.
This event is a valuable reminder that wildfire season is already here. Due to the recent warm weather, we are currently experiencing dry conditions and it doesn’t take much to unintentionally start a fire. A carelessly discarded cigarette or hot exhaust on tall grass can easily lead to a devastating fire. Now, more than ever, we need to act responsibly to ensure Chilliwack and surrounding areas stay free from wildfires.
A fire could negatively impact any member of our community and the communities around us. Please respect all outdoor burning restrictions. For more information, visit chilliwack.com/burning. Together, we can all help keep our community safe.
April 14, 2020
I appreciate how many of our residents heeded the advice to stay home over the long weekend. Thank you to everyone that stayed home, or respectfully enjoyed their own neighbourhood parks and trails while adhering to physical distancing guidelines.
Based on increased lineups at the Bailey Landfill today and over the weekend, it appears that many of you decided to work on spring cleaning projects over the weekend. While keeping busy at home is important, it is also critical that we do not overwhelm our landfill at this time. Over the past few weeks we have asked residents to hold onto materials if possible and leave the landfill for people who urgently need to dispose of things, and that request continues to remain in effect.
Due to long lineups, traffic control personnel were brought in over the weekend and will continue to be on site this week to help keep traffic moving. If you were thinking of making a trip to the Bailey Landfill, I encourage you to wait until a later date if possible. It will help us prevent unnecessary crowding at the landfill and save you from a long lineup. If long wait times persist, commercial waste haulers may get priority access.
We know that the landfill is typically busier during warm spring days and we thank you for your patience as we work to ensure continued safe practices at the Bailey Landfill.
April 9, 2020
Yesterday, BC Parks closed provincial parks to encourage physical distancing. In Chilliwack, we are fortunate to have many beautiful City parks and trails that currently remain open. While it is important to get fresh air and exercise, it is vitally important that we all continue to practice physical distancing at this time. If you are getting fresh air this weekend, take a walk in your own neighbourhood, and if a neighbourhood park or trail is busy, come back at a later time.
This is also not the time to visit other places. I am asking residents from out of town to please leave our parks and trails for Chilliwack residents this long weekend. I am also asking Chilliwack residents to stay put, heed the advice of Dr. Henry and avoid all non-essential travel.
Even during this challenging time of physical distancing, there are still many ways we can come together while staying physically apart. I have seen many residents trying to lift community spirit from afar, and I’m happy to offer another avenue with the #ChilliwackTogether campaign. We are encouraging everyone to create an art piece on the theme of “Physically Apart but Together at Heart”. Take a picture of your artwork and share it on social media with the hashtag #ChilliwackTogether, then display the final product in your window at home. We’ve also added a few colouring pages and resources for your kids at chilliwack.com/connect.
I know the next few days mark important holidays for many and I encourage you to connect with each other virtually during this time and continue following the recommendations and orders of the provincial health officer.
We will get through this together, by staying apart. Have a safe long weekend, Chilliwack.
April 8, 2020
While some may find physical distancing and self-isolation to be a boring experience, for others this current situation can be much more serious. During a regular school year, over 850 children look forward to a warm meal through the Bowls of Hope program each day. And each weekend, the Starfish Backpack program provides food to 159 families. In addition, the Rotary Club of Chilliwack provides their Breakfast and Literacy program at four local elementary schools. With schools closed right now, many of those children are not having some of their most basic needs met.
I would like to say a special thank you to the community partners that are joining forces to ensure that school children will continue to be fed during the COVID-19 pandemic (press release). Starting today, weekly food hampers will be prepared by the Chilliwack Salvation Army Food Bank, with the support of volunteers and community partners, including the Bowls of Hope Society, Starfish Backpack program (Chilliwack Community Services), the United Way of the Lower Mainland, all Chilliwack Rotary Clubs and the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce. The Chilliwack School District has arranged for hampers of food to be delivered to 23 school sites by volunteers and picked up by families with appropriate physical distancing.
During these difficult times, it is great to see our community come together and take care of each other. I am proud of these groups.
April 7, 2020
While the provincial government has declared a state of emergency, BC is different from many other parts of Canada in that the government has not restricted work to only essential services at this time. Work that complies with all Public Health Orders and accommodates physical distancing requirements has been able to continue. At City Hall, we have made many changes to ensure that we can continue to move forward with the business of the City, while following health orders and maintaining physical distancing.
One of the ways we are moving forward is through our previously scheduled transportation upgrade projects. Traffic volumes are generally lower right now, and we have found that this means fewer traffic disruptions during road work.
For the next two weeks, work will take place on Wellington Avenue as part of the Five Corners intersection project. With minimal traffic downtown, we knew this was a good window of opportunity to close Wellington Avenue to both vehicle and pedestrian traffic. There are some businesses still open on Wellington Avenue within the work zone, and the contractor is facilitating access for their customers to during the road closure.
Thank you to everyone that continues to do their part by following physical distancing guidelines and the Public Health Orders.
April 6, 2020
April 6 is a somber day in Canada as we remember the young lives lost two years ago in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. It is important, even in the midst of the turmoil caused by COVID-19, that we continue to remember the lives that were lost and the lives that were forever changed by that crash. While there cannot be any in-person remembrances today, I will be visiting humboldt.ca/tribute in order to take time to reflect and remember.
On Saturday, I was glad to hear that Dr. Bonnie Henry was heartened by the declining number of infections. Even as we see the numbers go down, she reminded us that the numbers could surge again. Now is the time to continue doing what we have been doing, even though it is difficult.
As a City, we are committed to helping our residents follow the orders and guidelines issued by the province’s health officer. Unfortunately, we have seen some people are still not getting the message. On Saturday, we put up fencing around all of our skateparks as many youths were not obeying closure signs or practicing physical distancing. Today, we will be closing all of our sports courts to further encourage residents to do the right thing. Sports courts include tennis and pickleball courts, hockey, soccer and basketball courts.
As the weather gets nicer this week, I know it will be harder than ever to stay home, but please, do your part. If a park or trail is crowded, help us keep them open by coming back at a time that is less busy. Exercise is important, but not at the risk of your health and the health of others. Be safe, Chilliwack.
April 3, 2020
As we head into another weekend, I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone of something important Dr. Bonnie Henry said yesterday. She has asked all of us to avoid non-essential travel, even within our province. She explained that most smaller communities do not have the capacity within their health care systems to accommodate any additional people at this time.
For many people in the Lower Mainland, Chilliwack and the surrounding back country is a place people like to come for outdoor recreation. We hope that everyone will take Dr. Henry’s suggestion to stay home seriously and leave our parks and trails for Chilliwack residents. At the same time, I encourage our residents to stay within Chilliwack. Now is not the time to visit Cultus Lake, Manning Park or other nearby recreation areas.
I know it is difficult to limit travel when we are used to having the freedom to roam our beautiful province, but please follow the directions of the provincial health officer and stay home.
April 2, 2020
Most of our parks and trails experienced unprecedented use on the weekend of March 21 and 22. Being mindful of these increases, we stepped up our messaging to encourage people to stay home and made some changes to help encourage physical distancing, such as closing playgrounds and making the Jinkerson Steps one way. Thankfully, our residents seem to be listening. Since that peak weekend, trail use has gone down to numbers that are closer to our seasonal average. If you do plan on going outside, please make sure you follow all the health rules and consider visiting some of our lesser known trails, instead.
Another change we’ve made this week is to temporarily stop accepting applications for the City’s Celebration and Activity Grant Program in order to better observe the Orders and guidelines of BC’s health officer. While we greatly appreciate the desire to foster social connections during these difficult times, we hope residents will consider alternative event styles, such as online gatherings or live streams, to continue to build community spirit safely. When rules around gathering sizes and physical distancing change, we will begin accepting grant applications once again.
We’ve been told that these next two weeks are critical for flattening the curve. Even though it’s difficult, we need to keep doing the right things, such as staying home as much as possible, washing our hands frequently and observing physical distancing. I know we can do this, Chilliwack!
April 1, 2020
I would like to start by saying thank you to everyone that has stayed home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. I appreciate your commitment to flattening the curve, as do many members of our community. Please remember that if you must leave your house for groceries or work to continue following physical distancing guidelines at all times.
I spent some time downtown today and participated in the City’s regular bylaw patrol along with the RCMP and Griffin Security. It was great to be able to see the work this team does every day to help make our downtown feel more safe and secure. I was also happy to see a quiet downtown, because that showed me that people are reserving their trips for essential errands.
Thank you to everyone that has been following the health orders and guidelines of the Province. Keep up the good work!
March 31, 2020
As a City, we are working hard to ensure our residents are aware of the current need to maintain physical distancing, while following all the orders of Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s health officer. We know that the next two weeks are crucial in flattening the curve and preventing the spread of COVID-19. During the upcoming weeks, please continue to stay home as much as possible and practice physical distancing if you must leave your house.
Over the weekend, our Operations Department received reports that the stairs at Teskey Way were crowded with people exercising. While it is great that so many people are out taking care of their physical health and enjoying our wonderful outdoor spaces, appropriate physical distancing must still be observed. Instead of closing the stairs, we have decided to implement a temporary one-way solution. As of today, the stairs at Teskey Way are designated up-hill only, enabling residents to continue to get outside and exercise in a safe manner that allows for the necessary two metres of space in between users. Signage has been placed at the stairs, along with a map demonstrating how to return to the base of the stairs using the trail alongside Teskey Way. We hope that this new one-way system will enable us to keep the stairs open and we ask everyone using the stairs to respect the signage and the one-way directions.
As we move forward into the next two weeks, the City will continue to modify operations and services in order to best serve the public while adhering to Provincial orders and guidelines. For more information about some of the changes we have already made, visit chilliwack.com/covid19.
March 30, 2020
I would like to start by thanking everyone that reached out to me on Sunday after I commented on Dianne Watt’s uninformed statement about using the old base in Chilliwack to house people from the DTES. I appreciated all the supportive texts, emails and social media posts, and wanted to thank everyone for checking the City’s website and social media accounts for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
Today, the City of Chilliwack made the difficult decision to temporarily close our dog parks in order to continue to encourage physical distancing. The closure will be effective at dusk tonight. The Province has asked all local governments to help them flatten the curve by educating the public about health orders and guidelines. One way we can do this is by closing public areas that do not easily facilitate physical distancing. While we know how important it is for dogs to socialize and get exercise, helping protect the health of all residents remains our priority. I hope that local dog owners can continue to make sure their pets get exercise by taking leashed walks through our many parks and trails.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s health officer, has told us repeatedly how important it is for us to flatten the curve. Today, she said that the next two weeks are critical. While it’s hard to know what will happen, Dr. Henry feels that the next two weeks will make a big difference as long as we all do our part. I encourage all of you to continue to wash your hands regularly, maintain physical distancing, and stay home as much as possible. Together, we can make a difference.
March 29, 2020
This morning Dianne Watts made an uninformed comment that CFB Chilliwack could be used as a place to help quarantine vulnerable people from the DTES. Immediately after hearing her comment, I called Dianne to see what she was thinking and to let her know that the old base has been transformed into a vibrant community. She was unaware that the area is now home to the Canada Education Park and the popular neighbourhood of Garrison Crossing. Over the last 13 years we have worked hard through the Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation to transform the old base into a world class education, training and research facility, featuring the University of the Fraser Valley, the RCMP Pacific Region Training Centre, the Justice Institute of British Columbia and Canada Border Services Agency. During our phone call she agreed to retract her statement and I am patiently waiting for her public response.
While I understand how important it is to protect our vulnerable and high risk population, this isn’t a situation that can be easily addressed by transporting large groups of people experiencing homelessness to a different community. BC Housing has repeatedly told us that people do best when they stay where they have supports already in place.
I have been working hard to ensure Chilliwack’s vulnerable community are protected during this health crisis. My staff have been speaking with BC Housing and Fraser Health in order to find a suitable self-isolation facility for members of our homeless population that are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
I think we can all agree that it is of the utmost importance to make sure people experiencing homelessness have access to a safe space to ensure we stop the spread of COVID-19. I believe each community should work with BC Housing and their local health authority to find a solution that works best without displacing anyone into different communities.
Mayor Ken Popove
March 27, 2020
I was cautiously optimistic today while watching Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister Adrian Dix share the latest modelling information on COVID-19. Their initial modelling indicates a slight flattening of the curve over the next 10 days is possible, showing that following the rules of the provincial health authority is more important than ever.
It has been encouraging to see people following the provincial health officer’s guidelines in Chilliwack. I hope today’s message from the Province will motivate people to continue following those rules in order to help stop the spread of the virus.
We have all been in awe of our amazing front line health care workers. Thank you all for doing such an incredible job during this health crisis. Today, Minister Dix reminded us that we can show them the most support by following Dr. Henry’s rules 100% and I completely agree. Let’s show our support by remembering to practice social distancing, staying home whenever possible, and following all the recommendations and orders from the provincial health officer.
Keep it up, Chilliwack!
March 26, 2020
Today, the Province made some significant announcements about the extraordinary powers they will be using under a state of provincial emergency to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and asked for support from local government. Since the beginning of this global health crisis, Chilliwack has worked diligently to closely follow directions from provincial and federal governments and we will continue to support their efforts.
Last week, the City of Chilliwack had already started creating an inventory of civic facilities that could be made available for pandemic response. I am happy that we were able to be proactive with our strategic emergency response planning and we will continue to work with the provincial government and health authority to work out any additional logistical details should the need arise.
We also learned that the Province is calling on local government bylaw enforcement officers to help ensure members of the public are adhering to provincial health orders. We are waiting for additional information from the Province and will deploy bylaw enforcement officers once we better understand what authority they will have to enforce orders. More details will be available on our website at chilliwack.com/covid19 once we have that information.
We have been getting a lot of calls about people not practicing social distancing, which is something we have been actively asking members of our community to practice. Today, Minister Farnworth made it clear that social distancing is currently a recommendation, but not a health order, which means it is not enforceable at this time. Even though it is not enforceable, I encourage everyone in Chilliwack to follow the Province’s social distancing recommendation for the safety of our community.
Yesterday we announced the discontinuation of our spring burning season. This was done to mitigate health concerns smoke can cause during the current health crisis. Today, the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy has banned open burning effective immediately. I am proud that Chilliwack had already made the decision to cancel outdoor burning and the Ministry’s decision reaffirms Council’s proactive approach to public safety in Chilliwack.
I am also happy to learn that the Government of BC has added a new service to help seniors during this difficult time. If you are a senior in our community, you can dial 211 and be connected with someone seven days a week that can assist with the delivery of groceries or medication.
I encourage all residents to stay home if possible, respect social distancing and practice good hand hygiene. I would also like to say a special thank you to all front line workers. I hope you know how valued you are by everyone in Chilliwack.
March 24, 2020
As a Council, one of our priorities is to build relationships with our First Nations neighbours, and this is even more important in times like these. Today I participated in a conference call with Chiefs from several local First Nations and representatives from the First Nations Health Authority in order to establish a dialogue between our communities and identify areas in which we can work collaboratively.
During this call, I shared an update on the City of Chilliwack’s response to COVID-19 to date and heard from each community the measures they are taking and the challenges they are facing. Supporting our vulnerable populations is a common goal at this time, and we will continue to keep the conversation and information sharing going.
Each of us agreed, it is important we all continue to follow the direction of the provincial health officer, practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible. Practice good hand hygiene and stay home if you feel unwell. Taking care of ourselves is one way we can take care of each other.
March 23, 2020
Today, I participated in a conference call with Minister Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Minister Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, along with many other Mayors across the province. Their message to local government remains consistent. They have asked us to remind our residents to practice social distancing and follow the orders of Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s provincial health officer. While the City of Chilliwack does not have the authority to enforce social distancing at this time, we have been asked to continue to urge residents to do the right thing.
In order to help residents better understand the orders from BC’s provincial health officer, our crews installed signage and taped off over 500 pieces of playground equipment, including skateparks, on Friday night. Unfortunately, over the weekend many people blatantly disobeyed the direction of Dr. Henry. In Chilliwack, people were gathering together in groups, not practicing social distancing, and removing closure notices at our parks. This reckless behaviour was deeply disappointing to see in our community.
While the Province has not yet told local governments to close parks and trails to the public, they have been clear that people must practice social distancing. They have encouraged people to stay within their own small family group if they go out in public. It is our hope that the people of Chilliwack will start following that direction.
As a municipality, we will continue to take our direction from the provincial government during this health crisis. Together we can share the message to practice social distancing at all times and make a positive difference.
We have heard repeatedly from our Prime Minister, Adrian Dix, Minister of Health and Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s provincial health officer that exercise is important during this difficult time. They have all encouraged us to get outdoors if we are healthy while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Unfortunately, over the last few days, I have received reports of people not following social distancing guidelines while utilizing our outdoor spaces and playgrounds. Based on the information we have received about the importance of social distancing, this is very concerning. Exercise and enjoying the outdoors is important, but we need to do so in a safe manner.
One area of concern is playground equipment, especially at our larger play structures. Today, I spoke with Dr. Victoria Lee, President and CEO of Fraser Health, and asked for guidance and direction from Fraser Health regarding outdoor play structures and the potential spread of COVID-19. She assured me that they are currently researching the matter and will let me know when they have reached a scientific conclusion.
In the meantime, as we wait for clear direction from Fraser Health, I would like all parents to think carefully before letting their children join others at a playground. If the play structure looks busy, come back at a later time. If you are comfortable letting your children utilize playgrounds that are not busy, speak to them about social distancing in terms they understand. I also encourage you to speak to your teenagers about maintaining a safe space when they are with friends.
I know the measures put in place by BC’s provincial health officer are having a large impact on all of our daily lives. Hopefully, if we work together as a community we will not only contain the virus, but also help prevent any additional restrictive measures by the Province.
Last night, I joined 170 BC Mayors on a conference call with Minister of Health Adrian Dix, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson, and Dr. Bonnie Henry to receive an update on the COVID-19 situation in our Province. The call was reassuring and I am confident that these leaders have the situation well in hand. In order to ensure effective communication between our levels of government continues, these calls will happen weekly, and I will share new information as it becomes available.
While we have not been officially made aware of any cases of COVID-19 in Chilliwack, it is important that we do not become complacent. As the number of cases continues to rise, I think we can now assume that there may already be cases in Chilliwack. As your City, we continue to work proactively regarding this rapidly evolving situation, and I am asking the community to do their part to help us flatten the curve. Put social distancing into practice and stay home, if possible. Practice good hand hygiene. If you feel unwell, stay home, and use the Province’s new COVID-19 self-assessment tool to determine if you need testing.
With the COVID-19 global pandemic, we are receiving new information at a rapid pace and I know that in the upcoming days and weeks we will be faced with many new experiences and challenges. I also know that as a community, we can rise up and meet those challenges head on. By taking precautions and exercising common sense, we will move forward together.
I want residents to know that the City of Chilliwack is taking a pro-active approach to this continually evolving situation, in order to ensure we meet the Provincial health authority’s latest guidelines. We continue to carefully evaluate all City run events and programs under this lens, which is why we decided to close our recreation centres until further notice. In addition to helping limit person to person contact, our facilities will undergo enhanced cleaning during the closures.
As an additional precaution, we are postponing all advisory committee meetings until further notice and suspending the 7:00pm public hearing portion of the next two Council meetings. We are also asking that residents and City staff not essential for the business on the agenda refrain from attending the 3:00pm Regular Meeting of Council in person and instead watch it live online.
As we take these precautionary steps, we urge everyone in Chilliwack to follow Provincial and Federal health guidelines. Halting the spread of COVID-19 is within the public’s control and everyone has an important role to play in flattening the curve.
I also encourage you to be good neighbours during this difficult time. Check in on your elderly neighbours and see if they need groceries. Connect with your loved ones to make sure they are staying healthy. Reach out to your friends and family if you need assistance.
I have been very disheartened by the acts of hoarding that have happened in Chilliwack and across Canada. We are all in this together and hoarding supplies does not benefit us as a community. Please only purchase what you need and do what you can to support your local businesses during this difficult time.
Please make your health and wellness a priority right now. In Chilliwack, we are fortunate to have over 100 parks and trails to explore. If you are well, take a walk on the Vedder Rotary Trail or check out the Chilliwack Community Forest. There is enough room to maintain good social distance while still taking the opportunity to exercise in a safe manner in many of our outdoor spaces.
We all have a shared responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19. Remember to regularly wash your hands, limit group activities and practice social distancing. If you don’t feel well, please stay home for the 14-day self-quarantine period. Together we can make a positive difference.
Mayor Ken Popove
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