The City of Delta hosted its second virtual town hall meeting on Facebook Thursday morning as a way of answering questions and providing vital information on the COVID-19 response.
Mayor George Harvie, Delta police Chief Neil Dubord and Delta North NDP MLA Ravi Khalon addressed questions around support of business, the provincial response, restaurant safety protocols, impacts on policing as well as the importance of social distancing.
Below are some highlights from the session:
Q:Do we know how many cases are in Delta?
A: “So the health authority doesn’t actually release numbers by community, but we should assume that there are cases and take the precautions that are in place,” said Khalon. “Wash your hands, practice physical distance and ensure that you can go out to get groceries or take a walk, but practice those principles. We do get information released to us when a care home has a case, but they don’t release the numbers by community-specific, just because we don’t want to stigmatize people who may have this situation in their home.”
“We have been getting emails about over-reacting. We are not over-reacting. The virus is here,” added Harvie. “The virus doesn’t know whether you are in Vancouver, Coquitlam or Delta. Everyone has to realize this.”
Dubord added that the police department as well as the fire department have been looking at further information to identify facilities within the City of Delta that may be higher risk, there may be cases there and what can we do to protect either our front-line workers or the public from being vulnerable.
“Unfortunately specific information is not available because of privacy concerns, but we will continue to work with government as this unfolds,” he said.
Q: Is there a system in place to report gatherings of people to police?
A:“I know that the city is working diligently to set up a call centre to be able to deal with this,” Dubord. “We don’t encourage on-line reporting, so when the call centre is open I encourage people to call in and let us know where this is so we can see what we can do, either a police officer or connect with Delta bylaws. Starting Monday we will also have some proactive teams in areas where we can visit and look at areas where there have been problems and deal with that proactively.”
Harvie said the call centre will be set up by early Monday morning.
“I’m very disappointed that there are still areas people are gathering,” he said. “We have zero tolerance. I’m pleading with folks who are cutting locks to get into the basketball courts, Fred Gingell stairs and our parks – wake up…this is extremely important.”
He said the call centre will also be there to provide assistance, support for community service groups as well.
Q:What does today’s announcement suspending the local state of emergency’s mean in regards to the bylaws and what the City and the Mayor issued under the local state of emergency?
A:“It actually acts to strengthen us,” said Harvie. “Anytime you have something under a provincial legislation versus a local government regulation there is strength in that. We always thought ours would be temporary, but we wanted to get out there and do things very quickly unlike other cities who moved too slow in my opinion, so know we have increased powers and continue to enforce the good directives that we are receiving from our minister of health and provincial health officer.
Q:What is being done to ensure that local restaurants that prepare food for take-out or delivery are following safety protocols?
A: “I do have our bylaw officers visiting the premises and ensuring they have marked off areas that ensure proper social distancing, ensure we are doing everything possible to ensure they can stay in business in some way,” said Harvie. “We are trying to assist every restaurant in take-out. Everyone I have has visited in South Delta the past two weeks…they have all been in compliance. I’m very impressed. So yes, our bylaws are checking.”
Q:Are you seeing a rise in domestic violence or crime?
A:“We are seeing certain types of crime change – seeing our crime pattern change in what would be typically night business as opposed we are getting more calls during the day – people are in isolation and staying at home,” said Dubord. “We are seeing intimate partner violence, people that are living within the house and that know each other and getting into some sort of a disagreement sometimes leading to assault and we are seeing more and more commercial break-ins. People are away from their businesses, so it is providing more opportunities for thieves.”
Q:Is the City looking for volunteers to assist and if so how?
A: “As we go through this process, we are already starting to look at what we are going to do to help the vulnerable population,” said Harvie. “That is where we will be asking for volunteers, whether it is delivering meals, we will be working with our social service groups. We are hoping to initiate a plan within the next two weeks and I think the public will be very satisfied with that.”
Q:Can you confirm if beaches and parks are still open to walk even though the parking lots are closed?
A: “I’ll use Centennial Park as an example. We requested the parking lot closed. What happened…people still drove there, parked along the road, which created another problem,” said Harvie. “There is no social distancing. In other parks, people have torn down protective barriers. Those playgrounds are not being cleaned…you are putting your child at risk, so you have to realize this, so as far as people going out for walks…I want to impress upon people to go out and walk in your neighbourhood, don’t drive to these destination areas.”
Harvie added that off-leash dog parks may also be closed soon if social distancing protocols are not adhered too.
“They will be closed pretty soon again if we notice an accumulation of people gathering there,” he said. “It’s a moving target every day because we have to take action immediately if the directions of our provincial health officer are not being followed.”
Kahlon said it is up to people to just be responsible.
“We don’t want to have to come down heavier and heavier. We are relying on people to be responsible. Find a place where there is not a lot of people and go for a walk. It’s good for mental health. We are not trying to do what has happened in China and now India where if you leave your house and there is a police officer chasing you. That is not where we are as a society, but what we need to have is people being responsible so we don’t have to take those heavier actions.”
The City of Delta’s next virtual town hall is set for Thursday, April 2 at 11 a.m.
To watch the full session of today’s townhall, log into the Delta Optimist Facebook page and see the replay in our watch party.