COVID-19 Update – March 23, 2020
BC Update: There were only 48 new cases since Saturday and three deaths. We now have 472 cases and have had 13 deaths. One hundred positive cases have recovered successfully. Six long term care facilities have outbreaks. Completed over 18,000 tests. Backlog of testing will be resolved today or tomorrow.
New Orders: Restrictions on public movement and facilities have increased over the weekend:
- Many Lower Mainland municipalities have closed parks, beaches, trails and public outdoor facilities. Vancouver City Council just passed new enforcement measures including fines of up to $1,000 for individuals and $50,000 for businesses who violate social distancing orders.
- The border has closed to all non-essential travel.
- Restaurants across BC were ordered to provide take-out or delivery only.
- The public health officer has clarified that there should be no playing games together outside, no gatherings, only small groups of one or two.
- Personal service establishments were ordered to close.
- Some provinces have ordered self-isolation upon return from another province.
Public Sector Employers: Government has told public sector employers that they should try to maintain compensation and employment continuity for all employees for at least March and April, even if that means they need to modify their service delivery or and redeploy staff to different functions. This will be reassessed near the end of April.
Health care workers: A number of health care workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19. None have severe illness. Some hospitalizations, but most managed at home. Hundreds of people have been safely cared for by our health care teams.
Support for Child Care Providers: Parents who can, should care for children at home. Child care providers that stay open will be eligible to get seven times their average monthly funding from government, which is expected to cover approximately 75% of a group facility’s average monthly operating expenses. They will also get ECE wage enhancements for their staff. Eligible centres that close can get up to two times their average monthly funding from government, which should cover about 20% of their monthly operating expenses. In return, all these child care providers cannot charge parents fees for any periods of closure or for any vacant spaces while they are open, including if a parent chooses to temporarily withdraw a child due to COVID-19. They must also agree to reserve spaces for families that were accessing their services before the pandemic, even if these families choose to temporarily withdraw, so families can be assured their spot will still be there once the pandemic passes.
Safe Worksites: The provincial health officer has provided clarification of necessary precautions for safe construction workplaces:
- There should be no more than 50 people in the same space in any circumstances.
- Where possible, employees should maintain a distance of two metres apart from each other.
- Post signage that limits the number of occupants in any elevator to four people at a time.
- Reduce in-person meetings and other gatherings and hold site meetings in open spaces or outside.
- Increase the number of handwashing stations and post signage that identifies their location. Where plumbed facilities are impracticable, employers must provide access to portable washroom and hand-washing facilities. Those facilities must be maintained in good working order and must be provided with the supplies necessary for their use.
- Maintain a list of employees that are currently working on sites and update this list daily.
- All common areas and surfaces should be cleaned at the end of each day. Examples include washrooms, shared offices, common tables, desks, light switches and door handles.
- Anyone with COVID-19-like symptoms, such as sore throat, fever, sneezing or coughing, must self-isolate at home for 14 days.
- Employers should reassess their work environment every day and keep updated with the information posted on the Province’s website: www.gov.bc.ca/COVID19
- More information from WorkSafe can be found here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/covid-19-updates
Protection for Vulnerable Residents: The province has introduced a ban on evictions for non-payment of rent for BC Housing properties, new supports for vulnerable people experiencing homelessness including 1,000 modular homes that could be quickly set up as emergency accommodation, ensuring continued funding for service providers to these populations to ensure they keep operating and centralized procurement of critical supplies.
Provincial Economic Plan: The province announced today a $5 billion action plan with $1.7 billion in investments in critical services, $1.1 billion in relief to workers and families and $2.2 billion targeted toward businesses and recovery.
- Housing: No evictions due to COVID-19. Exploring rent supplements for seniors and working poor. More details coming on Wednesday.
- BC Emergency Benefit for Workers: One time tax-free $1000 payment for workers unable to work due to crisis, whether eligible for EI or not. Application process will be stream-lined and straightforward and hopefully payments will go out by May.
- BC Climate Action Credit Top-Up: Will provide up to $218 for adults and $64 for kids. This money will come in July.
- Student Loan Payments: BC student loan payments will be frozen as of March 30, on top of Canada suspending student loan payments until Sept 30.
- Taxes Delayed: Employer Health Tax payments delayed until September 30.The planned increase of carbon tax will be deferred. Provincial tax filing and payment deadlines are being deferred to September.
- Deferred Payments: ICBC will provide ability to defer payments for up to 90 days without penalty. People dealing with job loss, illness or loss of wages due to COVID-19 may be eligible for BC Hydro’s Customer Crisis Fund grant program for up to $600.
- United Way: $50 million to United Way to provide supports for seniors and those who need it.
- Recovery: The B.C. government is partnering with business and labour leaders to build an economic stimulus plan. The Province has allocated $1.5 billion for economic recovery.
Legislature: In a historic move, the Legislature will resume today with twelve members to pass the supply bill and a bill amending the Employment Standards Act to “give immediate relief to the people and businesses.”
Demographics of COVID-19 in BC: The province released epidemiological data regarding cases in British Columbia. Women are over-represented in the number of cases (55%), likely due to the high numbers of women working in health-care.
Legislative Coordinator – BC Region