City of Vancouver closes virtually all public spaces as part of COVID-19 prevention measures
Community centres, libraries closed, downtown bars and restaurants closed for Wednesday
The City of Vancouver has closed virtually all public facilities to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
All public community centres, library branches, pools, hockey rinks, fitness centres and golf courses are closed effective immediately. Only the Carnegie and Evelyn Saller community centres in the Downtown Eastside and the Gathering Place community centre near Yaletown will remain open for essential services.
"My top priority is to ensure we do all we can to slow the spread of the virus," said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
"Our top priority must be to slow transmission and flatten the curve."
The city says all late fees are frozen, and people can get refunds for space reservations and year-long programs they may have purchased.
Marinas, fields and parks — other than Bloedel Conservatory and VanDusen Botanical Gardens — remain open. A full list of closures can be found here.
Late on Monday, Stewart also announced that all bars and restaurants in Vancouver's downtown core would be closed for St. Patrick's Day.
No state of emergency — yet
Stewart said the city didn't need to issue a state of emergency yet, but could in the future.
"It really is the top level we could go to," he said, adding that if they did, it would give the possibility to use additional powers, including taking over hotel space for vulnerable populations.
He also said that while the city would comply with new provincial orders banning events of over 50 people, it wouldn't indefinitely close restaurants or bars — though that was hours before his announcement of a one day closure of downtown restaurants and bars.
"At this point, the best health advice we have means that's not steps we're taking today, but it could happen," he said, adding that people should avoid any places where they can't keep a distance of one metre from others.
"St. Patrick's Day is tomorrow, I've been in lots of those bars, you're crammed together … drink your Guinness at home," he said.
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Metro Vancouver municipalities that announced closures of non-essential programs before Vancouver included Surrey, Port Coquitlam, Delta and West Vancouver, but Stewart said Metro Vancouver mayors have been talking regularly to ensure a coordinated response going forward.
"This is an evolving situation," he said.
"This is a forward looking situation, so we're trying to anticipate where we'll be in a week or two ... we're not always going to get it right."
Support for the homeless and renters
Stewart said the city had created a special group to work on helping people who are homeless or living in single room occupancy units.
"Right now, there is very little in the way of sanitation services for those in SROs and shelters," he said, adding that the city was looking at increasing funding for its rent bank and ways it could prevent evictions.
The PM has said no one should worry about paying their rent ... and we're taking the PM at his word. We're just figuring out logistically how does that happen."
Stewart was joined at the news conference by several senior staff and managers of different departments, all of whom kept a metre away from each other while standing to the side.
"It's very healthy to be outside. I encourage you to be outside," said Vancouver Park Board general manager Malcolm Bromley, who said asymptomatic people could continue to use the city's green spaces and seawall.
But Bromley's message came minutes after a more sober message from Vancouver Fire Chief Darrell Reid.
"What can the people of Vancouver do?" he said.
"Stay home, if possible."
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