|Mayor’s Statement - COVID-19||March 17, 2020|
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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