In a rare Saturday press conference, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a number of new provincial health orders and recommendations that further restrict businesses and residents in Surrey and White Rock.
Tailored specifically for the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal regions, the new orders and recommendations impact sports, workout facilities, social gatherings, workplaces and travel. There were no new orders placed on schools.
Regions outside of Fraser and Vancouver Coastal are not to be impacted by the new orders, which came into effect Saturday at 10 p.m. and are to remain until Nov. 23 at 12 p.m. However, the government has left open the possibility of an extension.
Social interactions and gatherings
Residents are no longer allowed to have a “safe six” group of friends to gather and interact with. The province is telling residents to not invite friends or family into their household. Funerals and weddings may proceed only with immediate household members.
However, Henry said people who live alone are still allowed to visit people in their social bubble.
“It’s very challenging for those who live alone,” Henry said, adding that people who live alone can have a “very small number of people who are in your bubble” over for a visit.
“It means if you do have one or two people you’re close with that you are considering your family, your bubble, your household, then stick to those people.”
Minister of Health Adrian Dix added that now is the time to reach out to friends and family members via FaceTime or by phone to support them.
As questions began to surface on whether or not the new order meant friends could gather outdoors, the Ministry of Health issued a clarification on the social gathering order Sunday afternoon.
“Under this new order, there are to be no social gatherings of any size with anyone other than your immediate household. That includes outdoors or in restaurants,” the release states.
“I know there has been some confusion on what immediate household means. To give some context, these would be the people you spend the most time with and are physically close to. These would be people who are part of your regular routine so household members, immediate family, a close friend or the people you have regular close contact with (for example a co-parent who lives outside the household).
”Those who live alone cannot host gatherings, but can continue to see members of what they would consider their immediate household (as described above) at home, outside or at a restaurant.”
The release says going for a walk is not considered a social gathering, but residents need to be vigilant that a walk doesn’t turn into a group of people gathering outside.
Sports and indoor physical activities
Businesses, recreation centres or other organization’s that operate indoor group physical activities are suspended.
The suspension includes spin classes, yoga, group fitness, dance classes and any other group indoor activity that increases the respiratory rate.
Indoor sports where physical distancing cannot be maintained is also suspended, including activities such as boxing, martial arts, hockey, volleyball and basketball.
Suspended group activities can be replaced with individual exercise or practice that allows participants to maintain a safe distance, according to the order.
Indoor group physical activities can only resume after the business has updated its COVID-19 safety plan and receive plan approval from a local medical health officer.
Travel for sports into and out of the region is suspended.
The new order does not apply to physical activities in schools.
Workplaces and restaurants
The new orders mandate all work places to conduct active daily in-person screening of all onsite workers using the COVID-19 symptom check list that is part of every business restart safety plan.
Workplaces must ensure that all workers and customers maintain appropriate physical distancing and wear masks when appropriate.
“Extra care should be taken in small office spaces, break rooms and kitchens,” the order states.
While there isn’t an order mandating people to work from home if possible, Henry made a suggestion that businesses allow employees to work from home if able.
“Consider going back to actively supporting people working from home in certain businesses, if possible,” Henry said.
SEE ALSO: 589 new COVID-19 infections in B.C.
In restaurants, Henry said the restrictions in place for no more than six people at a table, no “table hopping”, wearing a mask, and keeping a safe distance remain in place.
Henry said that restaurants that have been following the rules have not had transmission events. However, she noted a concern around “slippage of rules” or customers becoming complacent, and offered a “fair warning” to establishments.
“We will be cracking down on those, we know the inspectors know where the restaurants are, we’ve been working with WorkSafe. We will be paying attention, particularly to restaurants, because we know it can become an environment where we have seen transmission,” Henry said.
Henry recommended that people not travel into or out of the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley for the next two weeks, unless it’s essential travel.
“Right now we are advising, in the strongest terms, that people need to stay in their local community,” Henry said. “Right now, we have to go back to what we were doing in March, April and May where it was essential travel only.”
Schools and day-cares
No new orders were placed on schools or day-cares.
“Schools are one of the things we want to protect because we know how important it is for teachers, for students, for families to have schools operating,” she said.
“What happens in schools reflects what’s happening in our community, that’s why the focus has been on reducing transmission in our communities. What we have not seen is a lot of transmission events in schools. Schools are not amplifying the virus.”
As of Sunday morning, Fraser Health listed 43 schools in the region where a recent COVID-19 exposure has taken place.
Henry said the order on social gatherings does not apply to in-home day-cares.
No new restrictions or orders were placed on churches or places of worship. The order on social gatherings does not apply to places of religion.
“Those are not social gatherings. The 50-person limit, with physical distancing and all of the important restrictions that have been in place around churches and other religious centres, remain in place,” Henry said.
Party-buses and limousines.
The province said party-buses and group limousines must stop operating, immediately. Resuming operations is at the discretion of Henry and may be extended beyond Nov. 23 at 12 p.m.
The new orders and recommendations were made after the province experienced a significant spike in COVID-19 cases.
After weeks of reporting cases in the 100 to 200 mark, cases spiked to 589 cases on Friday and 567 new cases on Saturday.
Of the new cases reported Saturday, 411 were in Fraser Health region, and 122 cases were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. More than 100 people are in hospital with more than 30 in critical care.