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Surrey is looking for empty warehouses to use as hospital space

Despite patchwork of municipal responses to COVID-19, the message from B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer is clear: avoid other people.
Playgrounds should be avoided to prevent the spread of COVID-19, says B.C. Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry

No play dates on playgrounds, no visits from your neighbours, no parties and especially no gatherings in public spaces.

That’s the message of Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry who, on Friday, also restricted all restaurants across B.C. to takeout and delivery.

Until Friday restaurant openings represented some of the mixed messages being sent across Metro Vancouver and B.C. Depending in what city you live in there may or may not be a declared local state of emergency, there may or may not be city-run daycares operating next week, and playgrounds may be in use or taped off.

Furthermore, the City of Surrey is looking for empty warehouses for hospital space for the sick, said Mayor Doug McCallum Thursday.

On Friday Minister of Health Adrian Dix said the cancellation of elective surgeries has brought acute care capacity across the province from 105 % to 78.5 %, freeing up 2,398 beds. Critical care bed capacity is at 62 %.

On Monday Prime Minster Justin Trudeau told people to “stay home.”

Henry maintains, “You can walk your pets, go for a bike ride. These are things you can do as a family and maintain your distance from others.”

Distance means staying two metres away form other people outside your household. Much is still not known about the virus, the World Health Organization says.

The virus causes respiratory illness and is spread by microscopic droplets from the nose and mouth.

Henry warned Thursday that what we do now to prevent its spread will impact our health care system in 10-14 days.

“This is not a normal time,” she said. “We need to keep those distances between us. Right now is the time we want everyone to lay low.”
Henry says it is our “civic duty” to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Go in your backyard and you should not be in contact with others,” she said. “Don’t have a play date. This is not about being together.
If there is a group of kids mingling on the playground that’s not what we need. We need to be in a controlled environment. Parents should not be setting up play dates.”

Henry said Friday afternoon there are now 348 reported cases of COVID-19 in B.C. – although people with even mild symptoms (such as those of a cold or flu) are not being tested and being asked to isolate. As such, based on World Health Organization messaging, it is not known how widespread the virus is in B.C.

Henry said community transmission is occurring and tests can only be done on health care workers and those with significant symptoms. Some doctors claim the virus is already widespread and there is a dire need to take harsh measures on social distancing in order to regain normal life in weeks or perhaps months to come. (Quarantine zones still remain in Wuhan, China where the virus originated in late 2019.)

But some messages were not as clear. When Henry was asked Thursday by media about distancing while shopping or obtaining services such as hair salons, she responded: “Clearly there are areas where that is a challenge. We want to ensure businesses stay open to offer” essential services.

On Friday she said some businesses will need to stay open.

“There are many businesses that can and should stay open. We want to make sure the economy can support healthcare workers. …It’s not trying to shut down everything. The reason we are doing this is to prevent transmission of the virus and …businesses need to ensure they do this in a way that is safe.”

Truckers, for instance, should monitor their symptoms, said Henry.

Province-wide non-essential businesses can still say open unless directed by cities under a state of local emergency.

Based on provincial guidelines, daycares are remaining open to provide care for front-line pandemic workers in particular. But some cities, including Surrey, have taken proactive steps this week to shut down their city-run daycares with exceptions for frontline workers.

There are no emergency orders to maintain social distancing — yet, said Henry.

“We are still on the upswing that is why we take the physical distancing seriously. We are obviously watching this very carefully. We do have the legal authority to enforce it but I’m calling on your civic duty to do so.”

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