Delta has declared a local state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, March 19, Emergency Management BC, the province’s lead coordinating agency for all emergency management activities, approved Mayor George Harvie’s request to declare a local state of emergency, enabling him to enact powers necessary to enforce Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s verbal order to limit public gatherings and practice social distancing.
The city will now be taking immediate actions against any businesses that refuse to abide by the Provincial Health Officer’s directions, including closing the business and suspending its business licence.
“These are challenging times for residents and businesses in our community. By declaring a local state of emergency, we have additional abilities to protect the community. I have asked our bylaws department to enforce closures on some businesses that are not following the direction of our Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry,” Harvie said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
“I continue to work with all of council, staff, and senior government officials to protect this community from the impact of COVID-19.”
Thursday’s announcement declaring the local state of emergency singled out Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon for “facilitating the city’s efforts to protect the community, particularly working hard to have the Delta’s local state of emergency request approved so quickly.”
Harvie had requested Emergency Management BC allow the city to declare a local state of emergency on Wednesday, March 18, the same day the B.C. government declared a provincial state of emergency and the City of Vancouver — which is governed by a separate charter from other B.C. municipalities — declared its own local state of emergency.
Harvie also requested that the provincial government give local governments the authority to extend payment deadlines for the collection of fees and taxes without any penalty to residents and businesses.
The city also asked that the government adjust requirements to qualify for the Property Tax Deferment Program to allow for broader participation, and to consider any other measures that could alleviate the financial burden that many British Columbians are facing during this time period.
“We … recognize the financial hardship being faced by our residents and businesses at this time and are asking our counterparts at the provincial government to provide some immediate relief,” Harvie said in a press release.
Earlier this week, the city closed all recreation centres, community centres, ice arenas, swimming pools, art centres, senior centres and the Delta Archives, and also had suspended seniors bus services.
The city also cancelled all spring break programs and, following the direction of the Provincial Health Officer and BC Centre for Disease Control, cancelled all non-essential events, including the Delta Triathlon, which scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 2 after a five-year hiatus, and the city’s 2020 Spring Clean-Up.
Full refunds will be provided to anyone who had registered for city-organized activities and programs or who wished to extend their fitness pass during the closure period.
City hall was closed to the public late Wednesday morning. Anyone needing to pay utility fees or taxes is asked to do so online wherever possible. Failing that, the city has set up a drop box at city hall where people can pay by cheque.
All other city services remain operational via the city’s website, delta.ca.
The city will use the closures to deep clean facilities and perform annual maintenance, as well as provide assistance to other departments requiring additional resources.
For more information about the city’s response to COVID-19 and its impact to city programs, services and events — plus precautions to take to lessen the chance of contracting the virus as well as links to the Fraser Health, Health Canada, HealthLink BC and BC Centre for Disease Control websites — visit delta.ca/coronavirus.
Also on Wednesday, the Delta Police Department closed all of its district community police offices. The move came a day after the department suspended fingerprinting services at both its headquarters in Ladner and at the North Delta Public Safety Building.
The Delta Community Animal Shelter in Tilbury is also closed to the general public and only open by appointment or for redeeming strays and/or adoptions. Scheduled visitors will be screened over the phone prior to being permitted access to the shelter.
Animals adoptions will be processed over the phone wherever possible, and strays with IDs will be returned to their owners in the field whenever possible.
All public education classes at DCAS have been cancelled until further notice.
Animal control, including calls for dangerous animals, will continue to be enforced by City of Delta bylaw staff.
All Fraser Valley Regional libraries, including North Delta’s George Mackie Library, are closed to the public for an indefinite period of time and all library programs are cancelled.
On Wednesday, FVRL extended the closure to include all book drops. Customers are asked to keep their checked out materials, and all fines will be suspended during the closure.
All of the library’s digital content — including eBooks, audiobooks, news and magazines, music and video streaming, eLearning, “For Kids” and databases — is available online 24-7.
All FVRL facilities will be sanitized before they reopen.
Meanwhile, the province announced on Tuesday, March 17, that classes for students K-12 will be suspended indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Education Minister Rob Fleming said all students who are currently on track to move onto the next grade, or to graduate, will do so and the province is working with post-secondary institutions.
Arrangements will also be made to help provide school meals for at-risk students, he noted.
“We’ve urged schools and school districts to begin planning now to ensure a continuity of learning while in-class instruction is suspended in B.C. schools indefinitely,” Fleming said.
Some schools will remain open so kids of essential workers can still receive care, Fleming said. He said the province was gathering information about how many of the province’s students would qualify.