Delta sought limits on social gatherings weeks ago

The surge in COVID-19 cases, particularly in the Fraser Health region, has prompted the province to finally enact a new order further limiting the number of people at social gatherings, something the City of Delta had called on the province to do several weeks ago.

Provincial Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Monday said a new limit will be imposed whereby household parties will be limited to immediate families plus a so-called “safe six” in order to help reduce the spread.

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Mayor George Harvie at council Monday said the health order will be enforceable by bylaw officers, police officers and environmental health officers, and that Henry warned there shouldn’t be any large Halloween parties anywhere.

He noted he talked with Dr. Victoria Lee, the CEO of Fraser Health, last week about enforcement issues.

“We talked about the bylaws and I said our bylaw officers will be there to supplement our police officers, but the only thing I asked is that the enforceable order must be very clear in order that our officers can take action,” he said.

Harvie at a council meeting last month expressed outrage after getting an update from Delta police about a big house party in North Delta where COVID-19 safety measures were clearly ignored.

He noted that the Sept. 11 gathering involved three side-by-side homes with more than 150 people in attendance in that back yard, where fences were removed, prompting calls to police and the city’s bylaws department.

Harvie said he talked with other mayors who have had similar problems in their cities, partly due to the closures of banquet halls.

He said the government allowing gatherings of up to 50 people did not allow for the prevention of community transmission of the disease, suggesting the limit should be lowered to 10 people.

“Fining the amount of $2,000 isn’t a deterrent to people, unfortunately, in many cases. We need to have more enforcement. We need to have better tools. We need to ensure we can prohibit gatherings of 150 people joining three houses together. It cannot occur,” added Harvie at the time.

He also said that Delta council directed staff to review the noise bylaw in order to increase fines, especially when it comes to gatherings held over multiple days as well as the use of tents in residential back yards.

Hinting more measures could be on their way last week, Henry had warned the surge in daily cases was linked to social events that had gotten out of control.

Lee also said multi-day events including weddings and funerals have caused a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Lee noted the majority of the new cases are linked to known cases and clusters. Community-related clusters and outbreaks are connected to weddings, social gatherings and worksites. Transmission from these events spread to health care facilities, workplaces and schools.

Henry this week also said there is an expectation masks should be worn in public places but, as of now, there’s no public health order.

The City of Delta last month enacted a new rule requiring masks be worn at all its civic facilities.

Henry also encouraged businesses to review their safety plans.

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