Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s COVID-19 Update for March 22, 2020

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The following is the full text of Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s March 22, 2020 update to the city on COVID-19.

Check against delivery.

Good afternoon and thank you for everyone for being here.

Before I continue, I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered upon the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations.

Two days ago, we took the extraordinary action of becoming the first jurisdiction in BC to restrict all food and beverage service to take out or delivery only.

At the same time, we urged everyone in Vancouver to step up and take physical distancing seriously.

I reiterated a message that our senior staff, BC’s Minister of Health and Public Health Officer, and the Prime Minister have all been saying: stay two metres away from others in public and stop all unnecessary trips.

I told residents that if they failed to listen we would enforce and prosecute where necessary.

It’s OK to spend time on our beaches and parks, but you must be 2 meters away from anyone else, and only gather with your immediate household.

The vast majority of residents and businesses have been outstanding members of our community, abiding by these rules.

But too many did not.

This weekend I saw reports of people hosting house parties, having group picnics on the beach, playing soccer, playing beer pong.

Beer pong?!

This is not a game.

People are dying.

So today we are announcing even more steps the City is taking, and I am also stressing that the time of asking nicely is coming to an end.

We still want people to get outside alone or with members of their immediate household.

However, even when outside, you need to stay at least 2 meters away from other people.

To address the volumes we have seen over the weekend at some locations, the Park Board is prohibiting parking at our most high-traffic parks and beaches across the city.

Earlier today they also closed all outdoor public fitness facilities including bike parks, tennis courts, basketball courts, field sports, and more.

And tomorrow, City Council will also be meeting virtually once again to pass new bylaws that authorize enforcement and penalties to anyone violating these orders.

Like I said, the time for asking is over.

Those found in violation of these critical orders will be subject to significant fines.

And what we’re ordering is necessary to protect front line workers, essential services, and the lives of our most vulnerable neighbours.

We have also been in contact with Provincial emergency management and health officials about going even further and ordering a general order for non-essential workers to stay put.

I am asking Council to approve this power tomorrow just in case we need to use it.

Many residents have asked me why the City hasn’t already moved to shut down all non-essential services and places.

I have been in regular contact with provincial and local health officials.

Right now, they are telling me that we do not need to do this — yet.

But if — and only if — health officials deem it necessary, I want us to be able to immediately order non-essential services shut down.

Make no mistake, we will act to save lives if we need to.

The message right now, to everyone, is clear:

Shut down

Stay put.

Save lives.

You might think that you’ll be fine. That getting sick would be no big deal.

But as I’ve said many times before, there are more than 10,000 highly vulnerable neighbours who live in our City.

Many, many more are seniors and those with compromised immune systems that are rightfully worried right now.

Reckless behaviour, like playing beer pong in the middle of a pandemic, could lead to people dying.

While I am extremely concerned about the health of everyone in our City at time, we are particularly conscious of the fact that many of our vulnerable neighbours in the Downtown Eastside do not have the opportunity to isolate and protect themselves from this virus.

So while we are stepping up our efforts to get everyone to limit their time away from home, we are calling for urgent action to protect those in and around the Downtown Eastside.

Yesterday, I announced a series of important measures the Federal and Provincial governments need to take now, in coordination with the City of Vancouver, to keep people safe in the Downtown Eastside.

This eight part plan includes:

1. Goods delivery
2. Access to safe supply
3. Support for overdose prevention sites
4. Cleaning and community hygiene
5. Building security
6. Protection and testing for frontline workers
7. Increased Income assistance
8. and Housing stock and protection for renters

Vancouver is unique in all of Canada with a high-risk and high-need population.

We cannot fail them. We must act now.

Folks, I don’t know how else to say this:

The actions we take today and over the next few days could mean the difference between life or death for many of our neighbours.

When this is all over, will you be able to look at yourself in the mirror and honestly tell yourself that you did everything you could to help?

Right now, for too many people, the answer is no.

Yesterday the Minister of Health, Adrian Dix, said that we need 100% compliance.

Now is the time to meet this challenge together.

Thank you.

The 40th Mayor of Vancouver.

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