Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Northern Health responds to Facebook post from Prince Rupert doctor relaying presumptive case of COVID in the City

A social media post today on Facebook from a Prince Rupert doctor has roared through the city like a wildfire, as Dr. Mairus Pienaar shared some information on a recent patient at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital who had a presumptive case of COVID-19.

In his message he outlines for the community how the case was a visitor to the community who was intubated and transferred out of the community, with contact tracing said to be in place.

The post to his Facebook page has since seen over 200 replies and counting, leading to a range of commentary and theories from its readers as to the risk to the public at the moment.

Among the contributors was Prince Rupert City Councillor Barry Cunningham, who describes the Facebook post as a Statement.

He also observes how a Facebook contribution is somewhat different to the rumour mill and notes how people may now take the Covid threat seriously.

Northern Health has responded to the Social Media advisory by posting a note to their Prince Rupert designated Facebook page.

In their advisory, officials make note of the protocol for release of information that the health authority follows.

They also outline the procedure as to when such information would normally be shared by health officials.

"Specific information on confirmed cases would only be shared by the health authority or public health officials in circumstances where close contacts of confirmed cases could not be contacted by public health, or there was potential public exposure on a larger scale. 

Public Health officials have the power to release this information in exceptional circumstances such as these."

Northern Health also reaffirmed their past guidance to follow the range of information that has been provided by the Provincial Health Officer of British Columbia, Dr. Bonnie Henry.

The Provincial Health officer expanded on the theme of an outbreak in a community with an Op-ed article released on Monday, which you can read here.

The current Public Health Orders, Notices and Guidance from the Provincial Health Officer can be reviewed here.

You can review the wide expanse of material delivered to the public since the COVID-19 health crisis arrived in Canada from our archive page here.

City of Prince Rupert calls on residents to clean /Disinfect Garbage can lids

The City is calling on residents to do their part to reduce
the spread of COVID-19 by cleaning home garbage cans

The City of Prince Rupert is looking to the community to assist in reducing the spread of cross contamination during garbage collection operations.

In a short advisory to the Civic website and social media streams, the City outlined its concerns and what it would like to see from the community to help reduce the risk.

Last week, the City of Prince Rupert re-opened the Ridley Island Landfill site to the public, though with some revised measures in place for those taking their items to that location.

More items of interest on civic themes can be found from our Council archive page.

Province of British Columbia moves to secure space for vulnerable people to self-isolate

The British Columbia Government has outlined its plan to help out some of the most vulnerable residents across the province to find a place to self-isolate and reduce the spread of COVID1-19.

Since the provincial government began to tackle the issue they have secured more than 900 spaces at 23 sites including hotels, motels and community centres throughout the province.

“These new spaces are a critical part of how we can support those who are vulnerable in our community, including those who are experiencing homelessness or living in communal locations where the virus could spread more quickly. In partnership with health authorities and local government, these new spaces are helping us mitigate the effect of this virus and support our health-care system in communities across the province.” -- Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

As well the province made note as to how hotel and motel operators across the province have also provided space for those being discharged from hospital but need ongoing health care, something which frees up hospital beds for the COVID response.

"In addition, some hotels are reserved specifically for people who have COVID-19 and need a place to self-isolate while they recover. Other spaces are for patients being discharged from hospitals who do not have COVID-19 and who do not need emergency care, but still require ongoing health care – freeing up much needed beds in hospitals.  

Health authorities are identifying those who require self-isolation and working with BC Housing to refer people to hotel rooms or community centres. Some of these facilities are already operational, while the others are expected to be ready in the coming days and weeks. 

In addition to the more than 900 spaces secured to date, more rooms have been identified in communities throughout the province to be able to expand capacity if a need is identified by health authorities."

The full statement from the Province can be reviewed here.

Locally, work continues among a group of stakeholders towards trying to resolve issues related to the Prince Rupert Homeless Shelter on Third Avenue West, which does not have the required space to allow for the physical distancing required for all of its clients.

The homeless shelter issue has also been one of a number of items of friction between Prince Rupert City Council and Province of late.

Last week, MLA Jennifer Rice relayed that the City had issued a notice of closure for the homeless centre location, a curious decision it would seem in the  middle of a health pandemic.

At the time we had sought out some clarification on that closure order from the City of Prince Rupert, but as of yet have not received a reply to that enquiry.

To date, the City has also not made note of the homeless shelter issues through any of its many communication options; nor has the Mayor observed on the situation through his own political  portal.

In light of today's announcement from the Province, we have also reached out to MLA Jennifer Rice today for an update on the local issues and towards how, or if the new provincial program will be implemented in Prince Rupert.

For mote notes on housing issues in the region see our archive page here.

Further items of interest from the provincial scene can be explored from our Legislature archive, while municipal themes can be explored by way of our Council Discussion archive.

Prince Rupert Ground Search and Rescue offers guidance for outdoor adventurers

With some enjoyable Spring weather now embracing the North Coast, the temptation to make a break from your home and physical-distancing for some alone time in the wilderness may be strong, but for those considering a trek into the British Columbia back country a few notes to consider from the Prince Rupert Ground Search and Rescue group.

In a post to their Social media feed on Facebook over the weekend, the local organization of dedicated volunteers to respond to calls for assistance at all hours of the day made note of some very serious things to take note of.

The first an advisory that any response that they may have to launch will be governed by the availability of stock for personal protection equipment, particularly a current short of masks which will dictate their course of action.

They also provide the more traditional warnings for outdoors enthusiasts, highlighting the need not to travel alone in the backcountry (no doubt with a reminder as to physical distancing measures), they also make note of the need to know your limitations, have a rescue plan in mind and to practice caution if outdoors.

You can keep up to date on new initiatives and the ongoing work of the local Search and Rescue group from their Facebook page here.

For more notes related to Emergency Responders in the Northwest see our archive page here.

BC Transit to continue Free travels until end of April; Shares the story behind those Prince Rupert bus hearts

It will be another month of Free Transit for those who use BC Transit services in the region, with the transit operator outlining their plans through an information update on the Prince Rupert Transit website.

BC Transit will be extending our rear door boarding and not collecting fares procedures until April 30, 2020. 

The extension means customers do not need to purchase monthly passes or other fares for the month of April.

Details about refund processes for March and April fare products will be available when we announce the return to regular fare collection.

The notes from the Transit service, posted on Monday also highlight some of the measures that they are taking towards their response to the COVID-19 situation across British Columbia.

We have already implemented enhanced measures in response to COVID-19 including:

Enhanced cleaning on buses and at BC Transit facilities
Communication to staff and customers about physical distancing procedures 
Rear door loading (as available) 
Not collecting fares 
Limiting passenger capacity to support physical distancing 
Enhancing the red line for passengers to stand behind

You can explore more on their measures from the April 6th information sheet here.

In addition to the update from BC Transit, PW Transit Canada the local operator of services in Prince Rupert and Port Edward took to social media on Monday, sharing the story of those colourful hearts that resident of the region see on the local BC Transit buses.

The project is part of the #HeartsofHope campaign, and the local effort came from Tina Prokoopsky, her husband Brad is a Transit driver in the city and Tina created the colourful hearts for the buses of the Regional transit service.

The Hearts are part of the community and province wide salute to essential service workers in British Columbia.

More items of note related to Transit services in the region can be found here.

SD52 updates parents, guardians and students on elementary school continuity of education plans

SD52 is rolling out a number of programs as part of their
response to the COVID-91 health crisis

School District 52 has provided for individual notices for each of the elementary schools in Prince Rupert and Port Edward, outlining the status of their plans towards the deliver of their continuity of Education program.

With the school's remaining closed since March, the School District has been assessing how best to meet the mandate from the Ministry of Education to continue on with education, though in an online format an other options.

Last week school staff were taking part in virtual staff meetings to plan and coordinate their approach, contacting local families to assess their ability to use technology or where other concepts may be required.

The advisories for each school in the district can be reviewed below:

The District also has updates for students, parents and guardians and students of PRMS, CHSS and Pacific Coast School.

On Friday, Superintendent Irene LaPierre also delivered her latest update for the community outlining some of the work that took place in the first week back from Spring break, as school officials moved forward towards their planning for the new learning models.

Of note is the School District plan to provide support for the children of essential workers in the community,  with application forms having been made available for those who meet that criteria.

More on the essential workers program can be reviewed here.

The School District also noted that they are in the process of implementing a continuing of of providing a food program for students who normally access the District's breakfast or lunch program.

While they work on the details as to how they will continue with that program, they are going to provide a Grocery card from Canada Safeway to families in need, as well as to develop a "Bags of Goodness ' program that will provide for families once a week.  Details on those initiative will be provided at a later date.

The full update from Superintendent LaPierre can be reviewed here.

For more notes on education around the Northwest see our archive page here.

Port Edward keeps to governance schedule despite COVID-19 times

While Prince Rupert City Council may have chosen to cancel a regular Council session that had been scheduled for last night, down the road in Port Edward the work of civic governance has managed to continue on.

With the District Council meeting last Friday in a Special Session to take care of some local issues.

At the Friday session, the District approved their Engineering budget, which will launch the road rebuild work in the community.  The first project set to be the engineering and design of Evergreen Drive and Sunset Drive, as well as to review the previously engineered Wildwood.

The District Council also announced that they have been successful in obtaining a 2 million dollar grant and have prioritized their road work for the next two years.

Earlier last week, the District also announced that the Utility bill deadline has been extended to April 30th for payment, that way allowing for more flexibility during the COVID-1 pandemic and because they have closed their offices owing to the COVID-19 situation.

Some other advisories from the District include notes on their ongoing Street sweeping program and a reminder on the requirements related to Garbage collection, as well as the decision to keep the North Pacific Cannery Historical site closed for the 2020 season, a topic we explored here last week.

The full overview of the work of Port Edward Council in the last week can be found from their Facebook page.

As well, Mayor Knut Bjorndal provided for an information statement for the community on the community's work with the Province as well as its neighbouring communities when it comes to response to the COVID-19 situation.

You can review that letter to residents below:

For more notes on items of interest from Port Edward see our archive page here.