Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart issued the following statement today:
“I know this is a stressful time for residents, especially for seniors and others who already have health concerns. I want everyone to know that the City of Vancouver is taking this very seriously and we’re working in close coordination with the Provincial Health Officer and Vancouver Coastal Health. In times like these we need to stay calm and look out for our neighbours, especially those who might not be able to look after themselves as easily.
"The City has cancelled or postponed all gatherings of more than 250 people and we are modifying our operations to mitigate risk and to prioritize our resources to essential services. In addition to enhanced cleaning in all our facilities, Park Board pools are limiting usage to less than 250 people at a time and have closed hot pools and saunas. Certain programming, such as seniors and hands-on digital programs in VPL locations, have been discontinued.
"We will be suspending additional non-essential programs and services over the coming week. We will provide details of those changes on Monday. These changes will also allow us to re-allocate some of our staff and supplies to our COVID response, and to ensure that essential services can be maintained for the public.
"The public is already doing a good job at avoiding public places, and some of our scheduled programs and offerings are already undersubscribed.
"My top priority right now is to ensure we do what we can to slow or stop the spread of the virus and to make sure our most vulnerable neighbours are safe, especially seniors, those living in SROs or who are experiencing homelessness.
"As a City, we are focused on ensuring that we can continue to provide essential services for our residents and businesses, particularly Fire, Police, Water and Sewer. Our Emergency Operations Centre is leading the coordination of our response and is in direct communication with EMBC and neighboring municipalities.
"We are also working to support the more than 10,000 low-income residents who cannot self-isolate, many with compromised immune systems. We need a plan for these folks in terms of testing, isolation and support. Right now there is very little in the way of sanitation services for those living in SROs, in shelters, and those who are homeless. This poses a risk for both residents and staff.
"I have already spoken with the Federal Housing Minister, tomorrow I speak with the Deputy Prime Minister, and plan to connect with BC’s Housing Minister as quickly as possible.
"We need to make sure our neighbours who are under-housed or homeless are safe and to ensure no one loses their housing because of COVID 19 and how Ottawa and Victoria can support our work.
"We have already formed a Downtown Eastside task force with City of Vancouver staff, Vancouver Coastal Health, and BC Housing. They have been working all weekend and are looking at all options for people to safely self-isolate. We are also making sure privately run SROs have the information they need to make sure their buildings are clean and residents are supported.
"But we need enhanced coordination, and that will be my focus this week in my conversations with federal and provincial leaders.
"I’m also talking to them about the serious economic impacts that are already being felt by residents and businesses in Vancouver. As the global economy slows, we'll need stimulus here in Vancouver. We have dozens of shovel ready projects here in the city and are asking for clarity in how stimulus flows. I want to make sure it comes directly to cities, we’re on the front lines and we know where we can put funds to use right away.
"Through the Vancouver Economic Commission, we are in contact with representatives of impacted sectors and will be working with them to identify supports the City and other levels of government may be able to provide for the response and recovery of our local economy.
"Federal ministers are already calling me directly to make these arrangements and I expect more details from Ottawa soon. I will be speaking with the Mayors of Surrey and Burnaby to coordinate our asks of senior governments today.
"Finally, I want to commend the excellent work of our City staff who have been laser focused on keeping services running and keeping people safe. These are stressful times for everyone, and I want to personally thank them for all their hard work to date.
"I also want to give a very clear message to every resident of Vancouver: now is the time to stay calm and support our friends and neighbors who are most vulnerable. No one needs to horde supplies. It doesn’t help and only puts people at more risk.
"We need to be coming together and asking ourselves how we can help each other. If you have an elderly neighbour, or someone who has medical issues, ask them if they’re OK, ask them if they need anything.”