Mayor’s statement on phased re-opening plans
I have some information today on our phased re-opening plan for municipal properties... along with a few other updates.
It was encouraging to hear from B.C.’s medical health officer that the health crisis is reaching a point where we can consider opening facilities and other services to small groups practicing safe physical distancing.
However, we know we still have a way to go before we get through this and, having heard the direction by Premier Horgan and Dr. Bonnie Henry, we can now provide more information about our plans to re-open some civic properties to the public.
Some of the direction is a little vague and relies on people using the common sense we’ve gained over the previous two months about caution and the need for physical distancing.
There is no black-and-white direction about what’s appropriate – a lot of it depends on your “bubble” or circle of regular contacts – so City Bylaw staff will continue to have conversations with people who gather together in public places, to ensure they are being mindful of the risks to themselves and others.
City Staff responded to 368 calls between April 3 and May 11 and four have been referred to Interior Health. Average daily calls have decreased to 6 per day from of 15, most of them about social distancing or inquiries about what is permitted.
We are as committed as ever to ensuring the health and safety of our employees, the public, our contractors and business partners. We need to take this slowly and cautiously so that we don’t lose the ground we’ve gained in this fight.
We are planning for the reopening of services that support our local economy, consistent with the province’s plan for B.C. Most City services have continued to be available virtually or by appointment throughout the shutdown period and we will expand access to those services in ways that support business and community as soon as we can.
As the Premier mentioned last week, we’re already at the first phase of re-opening. Unlike some other jurisdictions, we did not close parks and other outdoor public places, thanks to the strong recommendations of Dr. Henry and the general compliance by our citizens in following those recommendations about physical distancing.
We know that with proper planning and everyone doing their part, we can move forward. We also know that if we do not all come together and follow the advice of the Provincial Health Officer, the strides forward we've made could be reversed – and nobody wants that.
We will do this by:
- Encouraging safe practices are followed for all employees, contractors, and communities.
- Be up-to-date on the latest information about COVID-19 restrictions and recommendations.
- Ensure our business practices are consistent with the Provincial Health Officer’s orders in response to Covid-19.
The City will update its approach as conditions, information and practices continue to change and evolve so that the risks to our community are properly addressed.
For now, some restrictions will remain in place for the safety of our community. As Premier Horgan said in his statement last week, “It won’t be the flipping of a switch”, shifting to the new normal will be bit by bit, one step at a time.
We have a facility re-opening framework that aligns with current provincial direction.
The Re-opening plan for May 15 includes outdoor recreation facilities open for casual use, including:
- Tennis courts
- Pickleball courts
- BMX track
- Skate parks
- Disc Golf
You will see signs posted at these facilities that encourage people to follow directions for safety and compliance with provincial health orders.
What remains closed in this phase are:
- Indoor recreation facilities
- Aquatics facilities
Recreation facilities such as Parkinson Recreation Centre could be opened progressively based on the recommendations from the province. Larger activity spaces could be used sooner than smaller spaces to ensure safe physical distancing.
Additional re-openings, will occur in the near future so long as we can meet the Provincial recommendations. These include facilities such as:
- Basketball courts
- Volleyball courts
- Ball Diamonds
- And limited use of indoor recreation facilities in large spaces.
We are planning to offer summer programs and kids camps, with modifications to ensure safe physical distancing is possible and proper hygiene protocols are in place in alignment with Work Safe BC guidelines.
In saying that, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated measures are frequently evolving and information can change quickly.
We are prepared to respond accordingly if changes are needed to ensure the safety of our residents and reduce the risk of spreading the virus. We need to progress together, slowly and safely.
We continue to listen to local business about the best ways we can accommodate your needs through the coming months.
In the weeks ahead, we’re going to see more business re-opening if they can comply with the health orders or recommendations for physical distancing and employee protection. Some of those businesses include:
- The retail sector
- Hair salons, barbers and other personal service establishments
- In-person counselling
- Restaurants, cafes, pubs
- Museums, art galleries, libraries
It was great to see the Chamber of Commerce launch its OK We Got This campaign, and the T-shirt campaign launched this week to support local businesses. Every little bit helps and I call on everyone to support local business whenever we can so that our local economy comes through this is a strong position
The Regional Mayors’ and Westbank First Nation Chief’s Economic Recovery Task Force has developed its action plan and we’ll hold our first monthly meeting on this next week. Some of the focus areas for the task force will include:
- Providing Central Okanagan communities a forum to identify economic recovery needs.
- Positioning and advocating for anticipated stimulus program funding for the Central Okanagan businesses and their employees.
- At a political level, we’ll communicate Central Okanagan needs with One Voice to other levels of government.
- Identify available areas for collaborative projects to support economic recovery.
And finally, a plug for my hair... No, not that kind of hair plug... and a plug for some of the businesses that are preparing to re-open in Phase 2 of the Province’s plan.
Last week my friends at Okanagan College Foundation challenged me to get involved in #HaircutsforHealthCare. I signed myself up and I also challenged Westbank First Nation Chief Chris Derickson, who I know is also in dire need of a haircut.
Chief Derickson and I are each aiming to raise $10,000 for Okanagan College’s new Health Sciences Centre in the next two weeks. For those who are able I recognize there are many good causes for people to support – I felt the pandemic clearly illustrated the need to have more trained health workers which this fundraiser will help accomplish and it could also potentially support our local businesses. That part is up to you – here’s how.
If I raise the money before the salons open, I will hand the clippers to my wife, Leanne, so she can give me the kind of haircut she thinks I should have.
If I raise the money after our salons are open, then I will still shave my head, but at least have the comfort of a professional at the other end of the clippers.
People can make donations here.