The Vancouver park board has limited the number of people who can use two of the city’s biggest swimming pools and shut down steam rooms and saunas in response to the global coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 50 people in B.C.
Malcolm Bromley, the park board’s general manager, said Friday that pool use at Killarney and Hillcrest is being restricted to a maximum of 250 people at each facility. That maximum number includes staff, he said.
“While Vancouver Coastal Health has informed us that the risk of COVID-19 [transmission] remains low, we have been taking steps within our system to address immediate concerns, as well as plan for more urgent action if required,” Bromley told reporters at a news conference outside the E-Comm emergency centre that included Fire Chief Darrell Reid and other city officials.
Community centres, ice rinks, sports fields and other park board facilities remained open as of Friday, with Bromley saying the park board is taking direction from health authorities as they grapple with a fast-moving outbreak in the province.
Confirmed coronavirus cases totaled 56 Friday, with three new cases reported on the North Shore involving three administrative staff at Lions Gate Hospital. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was scheduled to update those numbers and the state of the outbreak at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Bromley said all spring break programs and camps are still on, but a review of park board events scheduled between March 13 and June 30 led staff to cancel the Stanley Park Easter train and the Easter egg hunt at VanDusen Botanical Garden.
Full refunds will be provided, including for those people who want to cancel their participation or child’s participation in a spring break camp. He noted staff has seen a decline in the last week of seniors participating in programs and activities.
He added that staff will review events scheduled to take place July 1 and beyond, but a decision has yet to be made on further cancellations. Increased hand-cleaning protocols at park board facilities and signs educating people about the coronavirus have been posted, he said.
The park board’s move comes after Henry recommended Thursday that indoor and outdoor sporting events, conferences, meetings, religious gatherings and other events that would exceed an attendance of 250 people be cancelled in B.C.
That recommendation forced the City of Vancouver to cancel all city-run gatherings of 250 people or more, including performances at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Orpheum, Vancouver Playhouse and Vancouver Public Library.
The fire chief told reporters Friday that he wasn’t aware of any city employees who had contracted the coronavirus. Protocols for firefighters attending seniors’ homes, which have been hardest hit by the virus, hasn’t changed significantly, the chief said.
“Of course, there’s a caution in approaching the patient directly,” Reid said.
“Maybe in a typical environment, it might be done by several members of the team and now we reduce that to one member of the team, and we try to assess from a distance, where possible.”
If a firefighter were to contract the virus, the chief said, it would likely not lead to a shutdown of a firehall but noted that person would be required to self-isolate for 14 days. He noted firehalls operate in rotating shifts of four crews.
“With good cleaning principles in place and careful management, we would continue to keep our halls open,” Reid said.
Deputy city manager Paul Mochrie said the city continues to work with non-profit agencies and neighbourhood groups in the Dowtown Eastside to ensure the coronavirus doesn’t reach the city’s most vulnerable, including people who are homeless and living in shelters.
“Our foremost priority is the continuity of essential services that the City of Vancouver delivers to vulnerable people, our non-market housing operations, our food and hygiene services we deliver at our three community centres in the downtown and our outreach services,” Mochrie said.
“We want to ensure that we’re prepared to continue those services, managing with reduced staff and supplies during the course of this outbreak. We are also increasing our cleaning protocols and making operational changes to mitigate the exposure risks to patrons and our staff.”