UPDATED: SCRD chair calls on visitors and part-time residents to ‘stay home’

Local governments launch web pages for daily COVID-19 updates

The latest round of community updates from local government leaders on the COVID-19 pandemic includes a call from Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) chair Lori Pratt to limit visits to the Coast. 

The District of Sechelt, Town of Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) have launched dedicated pages on their websites to update constituents about COVID-19 developments and changes to service. The shíshálh Nation’s updates are being posted to its homepage. 

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Pratt, and Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers have also been posting videos with a summary of key messages. 

“If you have family members that want to visit from other jurisdictions, please tell them to stay where they are,” Pratt said in her March 23 video. “If the Sunshine Coast is not your primary residence, please consider staying home. Sunshine Coast Tourism is asking visitors to stay home at this time.” 

An update posted the same day by the tourism organization said, “Sunshine Coast Tourism is focused on the health and well-being of our coastal communities at this time. We do not encourage travellers and visitors to come to the Sunshine Coast at this time.” 

BC Ferries has also called on people to avoid non-essential travel. 

Other recent local government updates included the closure of SCRD, Sechelt, Gibsons and shíshálh Nation playgrounds as well as School District No. 46 outdoor basketball courts and a call to be careful about what you flush if you’re on the sewer system. 

“With the rapidly rising use of sanitizing and disposable wipes amid the COVID-19 crisis, residents are reminded of the importance of not flushing wipes of any sort, including those labelled flushable or biodegradable,” Pratt said in an earlier update. “We are already seeing impacts on our sewer systems due to the increase in usage of these wipes.” 

Pratt said the SCRD recommends that when throwing wipes or similar products into the trash, to ensure they’re in a tightly sealed bag. 

In one of her recent video updates, Siegers addressed the increasing call for the province and Vancouver Coastal Health to release more details about local cases. “Ask yourself, how would knowing that information impact your day-to-day behaviour? If you knew it was two or if it was 100?” Siegers asked, adding that people should “stay at home. Only go out if you absolutely have to. Act as if you are infected and don’t want to transmit to everyone else. That is the only way to be safe and protect your own health and the rest of the community.” 

She also called on parents to impress on teens and children that they have to practise social distancing from their friends too. “No gathering together at the beach at playgrounds or at the mall.” 

Gibsons Mayor Bill Beamish posted his first regular update on the Town website March 20, and Gibsons council held a special meeting March 24 to get an update on measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the pandemic’s impact on Town operations. 

Chief administrative officer Emanuel Machado told council that technology and “common-sense” changes in approach have enabled the Town to continue serving the public. 

“There’s been some questions around playgrounds and also the role of green space in people’s overall mental stability and our ability to live as well… We’re trying to find the right balance between providing these safe areas for people to be in and also limiting exposure to where we know these viruses could exist,” Machado said.

While playgrounds are closed, parks are still open, provided people practise social distancing, and the public washrooms at Armours Beach and Winegarden Park remain open as well. “We’re leaving those open… We think it’s a valuable service to folks, particularly folks that are on the streets still,” he said. 

The Town has, however, closed public water fountains, and the water dispenser at Well No. 1 beside the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives has been shut off until further notice. 

Council also heard from planning department head Lesley-Anne Staats, whose department includes bylaw enforcement. “[Bylaw] has been assisting Vancouver Coastal Health in follow-up with the closing of personal health establishments and restaurants… The number of calls has been going up. A lot of people are at home and concerned about social distancing measures.”

The daily updates from the local governments include much of the information already being circulated by Vancouver Coastal Health and the provincial and federal governments as well as a rundown of affected government services. 

Garbage, recycling and organics pickups are continuing as usual, except for the shíshálh Nation, where door-to-door recycling pickup has been cancelled. The SCRD is also telling people to wear gloves and wash their hands after collecting their garbage cans from the curb and if possible, sanitize your garbage can prior to returning it to your home. “This is because you are essentially ‘shaking hands’ with your garbage truck driver,” an update said. 

There are some changes at drop-off locations. The Gibsons Recycling Depot is limiting the number of vehicles and temporarily suspending re-use programs for books, paint and plant pots. 

Habitat for Humanity at Salish Soils has stopped accepting deposit bottle returns. 

The Sechelt Landfill and Pender Harbour Transfer Station are both busy and the SCRD is asking customers to limit their visits. Customers should expect delays. 

Gibsons said the green waste depot might have to be closed for short periods due to staffing limitations. 

All local government offices remain closed to the public, along with rec centres and pools and the Gibsons and Sechelt public libraries. 

The SCRD, Gibsons and Sechelt are all asking people to use phone, email or online portals to do business. Gibsons, for example, is offering “virtual inspections” for building permits. 

The shíshálh Nation has also closed the mem7iman Child Development Centre and the Wellness Centre and has cancelled the baby welcome ceremony, the chief and council swearing-in gathering and several other events.

In Sechelt, Rockwood Lodge, Mission Point House, and the Seaside Centre are all closed and anyone with a booking can cancel it without penalty and receive a full refund. 

Local governments are recommending residents check the web pages for the most recent service changes: 

SCRD: www.scrd.ca/covid-19-updates 

Sechelt: www.sechelt.ca/Live/COVID-19-Municipal-Updates

Gibsons: www.gibsons.ca/community/community-resources/covid-19/ 

Shíshálh Nation: https://shishalh.com

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