City of Vancouver has no plans to cancel public gatherings over coronavirus outbreak

COVID-19 cases reached 46 in British Columbia, as of Wednesday

The City of Vancouver says it has no immediate plans to cancel public gatherings, close public facilities or cancel programs in response to the coronavirus outbreak that had infected at least 46 people in British Columbia as of Wednesday.

In an emailed statement to the Courier Thursday, the city said senior staff is in close contact with public health officials and following their advice. The city’s emergency operations centre was activated Monday and pandemic plans have been reviewed.

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“At this time, Vancouver Coastal Health indicates that the risk in our city is still low,” the statement said.

“Right now, the city is not cancelling public gatherings or closing public facilities or programs. However, we are implementing enhanced cleaning protocols in our facilities and posting signage at all facilities.”

The city’s pandemic plans include the possibility of repurposing city facilities, establishing event cancellation protocols, ensuring the continued operation of critical services such as police and fire and coordinating with public health and other organizations.

The city is also working with the business community to assess and understand economic impact and potential strategies to mitigate a downturn in the economy. The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade announced Thursday that it is postponing in-person scheduled events and other meetings.

The city said it is asking staff and the public to stay at home if they are sick. If people have symptoms similar to COVID-19, which includes a fever, coughing or respiratory distress, the city says affected individuals should call 8-1-1 for advice and direction on next steps.

The city said some staff currently have options to work remotely and is looking to set up more staff outside of the office, depending on technology available. The city has about 9,100 employees, including full-time, part-time and casual or auxiliary.

That staff number includes the City of Vancouver, the parks board, library staff, firefighters and those who work at office of emergency management. The Vancouver Police Department has about 1,300 officers and several hundred civilian staff.

“We already are reminding staff of web conferencing systems we have at the city, instant messaging and other collaboration tools we have at hand,” the city said.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was expected to update media Thursday afternoon on the outbreak. Meanwhile, Vancouver Coastal Health issued an alert Thursday saying a person who attended the Pacific Dental Conference March 6 at the Vancouver Convention Centre tested positive for COVID-19.

The person, who attended the conference between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. is recovering at home and there is no risk to the community, nor is there any risk posed at the convention centre, according to a news release from the health authority.

As a precaution, the health authority advises participants who attended the Pacific Dental Conference during those hours to monitor themselves for symptoms for up to 14 days and call 8-1-1 for advice if they suspect they have contracted the virus.

In Washington State, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak with 99 cases, Gov. Jay Inslee announced this week a ban on events with more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties through March and possibly into April. 

mhowell@vancourier.com

@Howellings

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