The city is preparing for challenges, but is remaining calm as COVID-19 closes in.
The City of Nanaimo made the decision to close all recreation facilities and level up its emergency operations after new directives from B.C.’s provincial health officer on Monday morning.
Within hours of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s directive to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people, the City of Nanaimo had announced plans to close rec centres, pools and arenas, and had upped its emergency operations centre from Level 1 to Level 2. Chief administrative officer Jake Rudolph said whereas Level 1 is largely “virtual” operations, Level 2 means staff will be on call and “attached” to the emergency operations centre.
“Hourly there’s new impacts that are possibly impacting our ability to continue to maintain our service levels, so we want to be extra vigilant in terms of discussing and dealing with all those issues as they’re unfolding,” he said.
Rudolph said the city will begin limiting access to all first responder facilities, and is planning in case there’s a need to close public buildings such as city hall and the service and resource centre. He said the city doesn’t anticipate that any core services for residents will be impacted.
“It’s our plan and our desire and our intent to continue to maintain all levels of core services and we’re doing everything to prioritize that,” the CAO said.
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Mayor Leonard Krog he believes in a “calm and sensible” approach, but said the city is also being proactive.
“The need to contain the virus and protect public safety is paramount and I think people do understand the necessity for that,” he said.
The provincial health officer announced Monday that of the 30 new cases of COVID-19, seven are in the Island Health region. It isn’t providing locations of the cases by municipality, not even to city officials, said Rudolph.
“We’re going on the formal inputs from Ms. Henry. We have been in ongoing communication with the local chief medical officer, as well,” he said.
Asked if he’s satisfied with the case information being provided, Rudolph responded that “we’ve been vigilant in adhering to the guidance of the provincial government and they are asking us to be consistent and work as a group, a family of municipalities, as opposed to working independently because that will be confusing to the public.”
Krog added that bits and pieces of information on social media shouldn’t be confused for the truth and suggested people should rely on information provided by levels of government that are looking out for people’s best interests.
“This is not the time to panic and rely on unsubstantiated comments that are made by people, frankly, who have either no knowledge or no particular interest in ensuring public safety or in ensuring that the truth is not going to be a victim of this crisis,” the mayor said.
The city isn’t entirely sure yet what the ban on gatherings of 50 or more people includes, for example numbers of shoppers in a store. Rudolph said that wouldn’t be the city’s responsibility to enforce, though he said the city is taking the ban on large gatherings as a directive from the province.
“We are following that. Full compliance,” he said. “It’s not optional as far as the city is concerned. We will follow that directive and any further directives that come.”