The Village received the attached letter from Minister Robinson concerning COVID-19 province-wide restrictions.

November 22, 2020

Dear Mayors and Chairs:

As you know, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a number of new province-wide restrictions to curb the increased spread of COVID-19 across the province. As I have committed to staying in touch and keeping you informed with respect to COVID-19 related information, I am reaching out today to provide a summary on some key topics in relation to the new COVID-19 provincial health orders. I would also strongly encourage you to stay up-to-date on the latest information available by regularly checking the provincial government’s COVID-19 website at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/restrictions – which also contains some helpful examples and further details on the new restrictions outlined below.

Some of the topics discussed below are ones that came up in our conversations last week with local governments in Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions about the restrictions that were in place for those regions, and they are certainly ones that I have heard about generally from community leaders throughout the province.

These restrictions are in effect province-wide from November 19, 2020 at midnight to December 7, 2020 at midnight.

PHO order on province-wide restrictions, social gatherings and events

By order, all individuals, places of work and businesses in B.C. must significantly reduce social interactions. No social gatherings of any size at people’s residences with anyone other than your household or core bubble are permitted. In addition, all events and community-based gatherings as defined in the PHO order – Gatherings and Events (PDF) are suspended and there are additional restrictions in place by sector. The order makes clear that suspension does not apply to formal meetings such as local government council or board meetings or business meetings – these are not social gatherings. For additional information see https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/restrictions#pho-order The order does not suspend operations in restaurants and bars and other types of businesses, such as retail and movies. Such operations can continue to operate as long as they have a COVID-19 Safety Plan and employee protocols in place, including masks in all public indoor spaces. All Safety Plans should be reviewed and updated to reflect things such as mandatory masks.

Athletic activities

Businesses, recreation centres or other organizations that organize or operate high risk indoor group physical activities must suspend the following activities: spin classes, hot yoga and high intensity interval training (HIIT). Guidance on other physical activities done with a group indoors (e.g. dance, martial arts, cheerleading) will need to follow updated guidance that is being developed. Gyms and recreation facilities that offer individual workouts and 1-2 person personal training sessions can remain open as long as they have a COVID-19 Safety Plan that is strictly followed. Sports games, competitions and practices can continue with no spectators and no travel.  For additional information see https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/restrictions#athletics Note that businesses that close due to COVID-19 restrictions could be eligible to receive rent support of up to 90 percent.

Places of worship

In-person religious gatherings and worship services are suspended by order. Religious services can continue using remote or virtual attendance options, like Zoom or Skype. People can still visit your place of worship for individual activities, such as contemplation or personal prayer, and meal preparation as part of a religious service can continue provided protocols are followed.

Mask requirements

Masks are now required for everyone in all public indoor settings, all retail stores and common spaces/shared spaces at workplaces. People who cannot wear a mask due to medical conditions or who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own are exempt under the order. Masks are not recommended for children under the age of 2. For additional information see https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/restrictions#masks Note that the formal written order is expected to be issued early next week, with further details about the mask mandate, including enforcement. It is government’s expectation that the public abide by the mask mandate immediately along with the public health orders that were announced.

Travel advisory

At this time, all non-essential travel should be avoided. This includes travel into and out of B.C. and between communities of the province. Individual circumstances may affect whether a particular trip is considered essential or non-essential. Essential travel within B.C. includes: regular travel for work within your region; and travel for things like medical appointments and hospital visits. For more information see https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/restrictions#travel

Enforcement of Provincial Health Orders – role/responsibilities of local government bylaw officers

The role/responsibilities of local government bylaw officers have not changed. Local government bylaw officers’ primary role is education of the public and compliance support, as well as collaboration with the police for a jurisdiction, authorized provincial enforcement officers and health officers if those officers see a need to move to enforcement of the provincial health orders. WorkSafe BC personnel can enforce safety plans (e.g. for businesses). Local government bylaw officers are not authorized to ticket in relation to the provincial health orders, however, they can issue tickets for bylaw infractions that may arise in circumstances related to provincial health orders. In addition to compliance activities by WorkSafeBC, an Environmental Health Officers team will focus on workplaces in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions over the next two weeks to ensure COVID-19 Safety Plan compliance and enable rapid response and action.

Our commitment to supporting each other and coming together as a community is now more important than ever to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our province. The choices we make now and in the coming weeks and months will be essential to getting and keeping our province on the right track and addressing the pressures on our health care system and our communities. We need to step our efforts up now to keep essential services open.

As Dr. Henry says, remember to be kind, calm and look after each other in these challenging times.

Sincerely,
Selina Robinson
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing