Thursday March 5, 2020 ~ WEST SHORE
by Mary Brooke, B.Sc. ~ West Shore Voice News
This week the City of Langford has been the driving force behind a letter about COVID-19 municipal health responsibilities and economic concerns, prepared by the Westshore Chamber of Commerce and sent to Premier John Horgan.
Headed up as “preparing for the potential impacts of COVID-19 in our communities”, the letter signed by Westshore Chamber of Commerce president Mike Reilly said there is “concern that there is a lack of guidance or protocols currently available from the provincial government on managing any cases in our communities and preventing the spread of the disease”.
The letter was likely prepared after an in-camera session with Langford Mayor Stew Young and Council on Monday evening, March 2, attended by Reilly. The letter was issued March 3.
“For the businesses in our municipalities, we have a mandate to lead a proactive strategy that provides confidence to minimize the risk of significant business loss,” said Reilly.
“To date there has been no direction from the province beyond basic hygiene activities such as hand washing and staying home when sick,” Reilly stated.
The Chamber is also concerned about the impact of suspension of service by BC Ferries, any closure of schools, and long term impacts to public events (such as sporting venues and festivals). There is a major sporting event scheduled for March 27 and 31 at Westhills Stadium with Canada Soccer’s national men’s team competing with Trinidad and Tobago’s team; the first date has already been sold out.
Presently the World Health Organization (WHO) is emphasizing the importance of implementing a comprehensive approach to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. “Educating the population, expanding surveillance, caring for patients, and strengthening preparedness systems are key to interrupting transmission,” says the WHO Director-General.
Meanwhile, on Thursday afternoon, BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said there would be a major BC news conference on Friday March 6, at which Premier John Horgan would also address the media about province-wide implications of the COVID-19 virus situation which clearly appears to be escalating in potential impact across many if not all sectors of health service and economic stability.
The SD62 school district which has schools in Langford, Colwood and Sooke issued a statement to West Shore Voice News today about any possible decision to close schools in the west shore and Sooke:
“This has not yet been discussed as a scenario with the Ministry of Education. If the issue arose that schools needed to close as a result of a health concern, we would take our lead from the Chief School Health Officer as defined in the School Act (which is the Chief Medical Health Officer). This would not be a decision undertaken by district’s individually as is the case for snow days.”
The Westshore Chamber represents five (5) municipalities: Langford, Colwood, View Royal, Highlands and Metchosin. Here are some of the actions being taken by those municipalities for their staff and offices, or other broader advisories:
LANGFORD: An advisory to all Langford residents with some World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations also includes these pointers for city staff:
• Arranging for more frequent cleans of high touch points in City Hall
• Encouraging staff to regularly wipe down personal workspaces (cleaning supplies will be provided)
• Encouraging Skype/remote meetings whenever possible
• Discouraging handshakes
VIEW ROYAL: General emergency preparedness is posted on the View Royal website. View Royal Mayor David Screech says there is no indication of need to cancel any community events at this time.
“We all need to be more vigilant in how we interact with each other and the general public,” says View Royal CAO Kim Anema. For COVID-19: “These practical tips listed can make a world of difference”:
1) NO handshaking! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc. Apparently this is at or very nearly at the top of the no-no list.
2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches, elevator buttons, etc. Lift the gasoline dispenser/pump at gas stations with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.
3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip – do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.
4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.
5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.
6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands.
7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more.
METCHOSIN: Mayor John Ranns says Metchosin is well prepared due in large part to the longstanding emergency preparedness work of Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop and a strong team of volunteers who support her work.
Metchosin has up to three locations that can be used as Emergency Operation Centres (EOC), including a dedicated EOC room at the fire hall, the local Anglican church, and at the old Metchosin school where a negative pressure room could possibly be set up. All three of those locations have kitchens.
As well, a local medical clinic in Metchosin operated by Dr O’Connor has a negative pressure room for the isolation of patients with respiratory symptoms. Dr O’Connor will be making a presentation to Metchosin Council on Monday night, March 9.
Ranns says it also helps significantly that there is a small population base (under 5,000) where everyone knows each other, and the needs of seniors and anyone with at-risk health conditions are already identified. All the planning in advance for emergencies of various types (including fire, earthquake and tsunami) has Metchosin in good shape to respond to community needs during a COVID-19 outbreak.
COLWOOD: On the Colwood website is a page about preventing the spread of illness, listing the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations and a fuller list of emergency preparedness for Colwood residents and area including severe weather, earthquakes and infectious diseases.
HIGHLANDS: “Staff are keeping abreast of the situation with the Office of the Public Health Officer and our West Shore neighbours,” says District of Highlands Mayor Ken Williams.