Ben’s Nanaimo Council Update, April 2, 2020 – Covid-19 report and reflection
Some reports, updates and thoughts from my week on Council. The focus has been of course responding to the Covid-19 outbreak. Useful links for Covid-19 related information are listed throughout.
City and RDN Covid-19 response at a glance
City and RDN’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak had begun before provincial public health announcements and has intensified ever since. At this stage, most of the efforts have been to insure compliance with public health advisories and orders to reduce the spread of the virus. City and RDN are following the lead of Emergency Management BC and Ministry of Health.
The last two weeks, Staff have done an amazing job ensuring that fire, police, water, sewer, waste collection, public transportation and parks maintenance are continuing to serve the community while adapting to physical distancing requirements. City departments are working on business continuity planning to ensure detailed plans are in place if sickness amongst staff should occur. All municipal buildings including recreation facilities have been closed to the public. The majority of services have gone online such as building/development permits and can be accessed through city website. For detailed information on city’s response and services please visit:
COVID-19 Special Edition My Nanaimo this week
City’s Response to COVID-19 web page
City Services Online
Covid-19 on the Island
Island Health is reporting high compliance with the Health Officer Orders so there is not significant pressure to utilize municipal Bylaw resources. Efforts to support physical distancing, increase hygiene and reduce travel seem to be having a positive impact on reducing the spread of the virus.
That being said Individuals are testing positive from unknown locations meaning there is viral transmission in communities, so increased caution and diligence in following physical distancing is important.
As of April 2nd there were 72 confirmed cases on the island, 29 are fully recovered, 10 patients are hospitalized, 4 of those in critical care and 2 reported deaths. My condolences to the families who have lost loved ones.
Testing is limited so there is likely a much higher rate of individuals infected. Royal Jubilee is the primary hospital to treat Covid-19 patients with NRGH secondary. Currently NRGH is at 70% capacity with emergency room visits down 50-60%.
Some modelling through Island health has indicated that that peak incidents of cases could occur mid to late April and maybe even later. Province has made it clear the physical distancing measures will be in place into May and possibly longer. High community vigilance around transmission however will not be over until there is a vaccine and treatment. For more information and updated statistics from Federal/provicial health bodies and Island health, please visit these websites:
British Columbia Ministry of Health
Current and Emerging issues for Council:
Current issues being addressed in the city and regional district’s COVID-19 response is supporting individuals experiencing homelessness and planning regarding responding to the economic impacts resulting from shutdowns.
COVID-19 Homelessness Response
Individuals experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable to the outbreak of COVID-19 and can cause further community transmission as they do not have access to primary resources such as basic hygiene, food and shelter. Many are also already experiencing complicated health conditions. From the most recent point in time count completed in March, it is estimated that there are approximately between 425-600 individuals experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo. With the closure of many businesses, public facilities and the closures of some shelters, this population is under increasing stress.
The City is working with Island Health and BC Housing to assist in planning for accommodating those experiencing homelessness who may need to be isolated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Health and Housing Task Force is also reconvening to identify strategies to assist and provide a hub of communication between service providers, the city and regional and provincial bodies. One strategy includes the development of a food security plan to identify funding, procurement and distribution options to provide safe and consistent meals.
The City is also providing additional washroom, hand sanitizing and potable water facilities in the downtown.
There is a high degree of uncertainty over the length of the pandemic closures and the domino effects through local economies and communities. This makes financial modelling challenging and the development of sound budgets.
At the upcoming monday council meeting, staff will be reviewing economic modeling with council to look at the impacts on city and community. Council will be having open discussion exploring options as to how to the city can best support community and economic recovery. Senior levels of government have committed significant amounts of financial relief and it will be critical for the city to work closely with the province in how our municipality will play its role.
Also, for those that have temporally lost their jobs, I hope this passes as quickly as possible and please access supports that can be easily accessed through a portal set up by our federal MP at: https://www.paulmanlymp.ca/covid19-support.
Great information through the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce “Stay Strong Nanaimo” to help support businesses through this time and links to all the federal and provincial relief programs (https://nanaimochamber.bc.ca).
There has been some concern over the closure of the Island Roots Winter Farmers Market as a result of the city shutting down its facilities to the public. The immediate public health concern of maintaining the necessary physical distancing was a priority in the decision in the absence of clearer direction from the province at the time. Access however, to healthy locally grown food is very important for food security in these very cases of a pandemic. In response, the Island Roots market has set up online ordering system that is now in effect https://www.islandrootsmarket.com. Moving forward as the summer market season approaches, the province has recognized the importance of local markets and they are allowed to operate with the current health orders for the provision of food only and if measures are taken to ensure proper physical distancing. I will be working with the city to support the markets going forward.
For myself, I have been at my computer most of the days keeping updated on the flood of information of a rapidly changing situation. Lots of updates from city, and RDN staff. Calls with the mayor, fellow council members, the UBCM president, representatives from our business and social service community. Ive been very impressed by all our community organizations stepping up to the plate to keep the community informed and connected.
Im amazed at how quickly everyone is adapting to operating at “a distance” and I have taking a real liking to the video conferencing software “zoom”. Wednesday night I had a really enjoyable virtual meeting with the South End Community Association who is making an effort to connect the south end community through a mail out that will reach those that may not be on the internet.
It was almost strange going in person to the council meeting this Wednesday and even stranger having to sit 2 meters away from everyone else. My spot was in the public gallery and when I wanted to speak I had to walk down to the podium. The meeting went four and a half hours but there was important discussion on how to move forward in supporting folks living with homelessness and also updates on the amazing work our staff have been doing keeping the city running.
My hat is off to all the folks working front lines in the public either in health care, local government, in grocery stores, pharmacies etc. I can see everyone really making an effort to make things work while keeping each other safe. Lets keep watching out for one another.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org should you have any further questions. Be kind, and reach out to those who may be isolated at home. We need to stay focused on physical distancing but keep socially connected.