COVID-19 in B.C.: TransLink to suspend cuts and layoffs; homeless housing in Vancouver and Victoria

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      While the number of new and hospitalized COVID-19 cases in B.C. decreased today, TransLink announced progress in its talks with the provincial government about a solution for financial losses during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the province also gave an update on housing for homeless people in Vancouver and Victoria.  

      Daily update

      On Fridays, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issue a news release for the daily B.C. COVID-19 update instead of a news conference.

      Today (May 8), Dix and Dr. Henry confirmed that there are 29 new cases (down from 33 new cases yesterday).

      Accordingly, there have been a total of 2,315 cases in the province, with 866 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,089 in Fraser Health, 125 in Island Health region (the news release states that two cases were removed from yesterday’s Island Health total due to a data error), 180 in Interior Health, and 55 are in Northern Health.

      The number of hospitalized individuals has decreased from 76 to 73 people, with 20 of those patients in intensive care.

      There aren’t any new outbreaks at longterm facility outbreaks, for a total of 16 facilities and five acute-care units with active outbreaks.

      In the food-processing sector, the number of cases at Chilliwack’s Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry and Vancouver’s United Poultry remain the same (seven and 35, respectively) while the number of cases at Coquitlam’s Superior Poultry has risen from 56 to 61 cases.

      There is one new B.C. case connected to the Kearl Lake oil sands outbreak in Alberta for a total of 17 cases.

      Unfortunately, there is one new death in Fraser Health for a total of 127 COVID-19 fatalities in British Columbia. 

      A cumulative total of 1,579 people have now recovered.

      Temporary vinyl and plexiglass barriers are being installed on TransLink buses.

      Transit talks continue

      The B.C. government issued a news release today to state that it is working with TransLink on a solution to the financial impact of the pandemic upon the transit agency.

      Due to progress during discussions, TransLink is suspending the service reductions that were scheduled to proceed on May 18 and layoff notices issued to about 1,500 employees will be rescinded.

      The service cuts and layoffs had been announced on April 20.

      As B.C. prepares to implement its plan for reopening, the provincial government is reviewing transit service levels to ensure people have transportation while maintaining health precautions.

      TransLink had announced on May 4 that it will resume boarding through front doors and fare collection on June 1.

      Fares had been suspended as of March 20 and all boarding on to buses was being conducted through rear doors to ensure physical distancing.

      TransLink stated that it was losing about $75 million per month due to reductions in ridership and fuel tax revenue. An estimated $2 million per month is expected to be regained by resuming collection of fares.

      Temporary plexiglass and vinyl barriers are being installed on buses to protect drivers.

      Further details will be announced in the near future.

      Dr. Henry had previously stated on April 27 that there is very little evidence from around the world of the virus being transmitted on transit and that transit isn’t a high-risk environment when safety measures (such as physical distancing) are practised.

      Housing for homeless

      The B.C. government began moving people from encampments in Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside and in Victoria’s Topaz Park and on Pandora Avenue into temporary accommodations.

      By May 7, a total of 320 people in Vancouver and Victoria had been relocated.

      While the deadline for moving all individuals in both cities was May 9, the province extended the deadline for Victoria to May 20.

      At a City of Vancouver news conference on May 7, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart stated that the Roundhouse and Coal Harbour community centres are being used to house homeless people in Vancouver.

      He added that the city will open other community centres for emergency housing as needed.

      “I live very close to the Roundhouse Community Centre, and I know that’s been a tremendous success, helping a lot of people get off the streets and really having very little impact on the surrounding community,” he said.

      A series of measures to help homeless people were announced by the City of Vancouver and B.C. government in late March and early April. 

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.