Coronavirus Update 4 – March 20, 2020

This update was posted morning of March 20, 2020. The situation is changing by the hour. Please check the CanadaNova Scotia and Halifax websites for the most up to date information, and follow the social media links below.

The information below no longer entirely up to date.  All relevant info from these updates has been compiled into my COVID-19 resources website, with information on current Government ResponseIndividuals & FamiliesBusiness as well as Links to Resources including key social media to follow.


As I have said on social media the messages will evolve rapidly due to the unpredictable & fast moving situation. Any corrections I (or anyone else issues) should be read as simple communication. No one is to blame as directions change and evolve & folks have to correct and issue new directives.

The three orders of government, along with our not for profit and private partners are really working very effectively to ensure that everything keeps functioning and people get what they need.

This illness is very mild in the vast majority of cases, and the steps we are taking to smooth the curve ensure that the health care system can handle the more serious cases.

While obviously things are a struggle right now, steps have been taken to make sure the economy is going to keep working and things will improve once these initial, necessary adjustments have been made.  So let’s remain calm and keep doing what we are doing!

I am proud of the response of residents, government and business in Nova Scotia.  Everyone is working so hard to make our community safe, pulling together and trying to help each other through this. Transit reports that we are down 60-70% on transit use and that shows folks are staying home and leaving capacity for others.

I’ve reorganized these updates into four sections to make it easier to navigate:

This is a very long update and I wanted to highlight two things right at the top.

I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! – If you a resident, an HRM employee, a shut in, you need someone to talk to, need some help or have something to offer, please contact me. I cannot promise I can get back to you right away, and I cannot promise I can fix every problem, but I will try!  I am especially looking for tips, advice, ideas for things to share to our neighbours about how you are getting through this, volunteer opportunities, etc. Email, call my cell (902-430-7822), message me on social media. Let’s stay in touch!

LOW RISK EXPOSURE – The NS Health Authority is advising of a potential low-risk public exposure to COVID-19 at 2 Halifax locations between March 5-7. People who visited the Halifax Grammar School gym or the Homburg Athletic Centre gym at Saint Mary’s University should monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

Coronavirus response – the big picture

 

Key concerns in Flag of Canada right now – Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer for Canada

The day-by-day sharp rise in cases in Canada and provinces reporting new cases with no links to travel are the focus of our concern right now. We need to get this right, right now, all clean-hands on deck.

Unlinked COVID19 cases are signals of community spread. Applying strong public health measures to detect-test-isolate cases & trace-manage contacts continues to be our top priority.

These measures are needed to investigate community spread, find and interrupt hidden chains of transmission & slow the spread of the virus.

COVID19 is not the same in all areas of Canada, therefore public health responses are being tailored to meet local challenges – but we must all be one with social distancing – everyone, everywhere band together to flatten the curve.

Over 55,000 people have been tested to date at provincial & national public health labs across Canada to identify COVID19 cases, look for community spread & quickly interrupt any chains of transmission to #SlowTheSpread #FlattentheCurve #PlanktheCurve

It all comes down to this – we need to “flatten the curve”:

Flatten the Curve

As we have all been tweeting the last two weeks we need to do this in order to “flatten the curve”, measures must continue to be taken.

The goal is to slow the spread of the virus, to try and better match health care system capacity to the number of urgent cases. Everyone will need to do their part.

The key ways to do this are social distancing and washing your hands.

Social Distancing – what it is and what it isn’t

Dr Strang had some strong words yesterday about what social distancing is, and that it is not appropriate to harass or publicly shame people who are have travelled because they left their homes:

“There is a misunderstanding. All of us need to be social distancing, whether we’ve travelled or not. It’s physical distancing to reduce chance of virus spreading. It’s working from home, it’s why we’re closing things down. We ALL need to do this.

It’s also a time where we need to be socially connected. We need to use our free time we have to figure out how to connect virtually. Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t be out if necessary. How are those who are NOT isolated helping others who have to be?

The next layer is those who have travelled and asked to self isolate. It doesn’t mean they have to stay away in their home. You can still go for a walk, bike ride. What’s most important is to separate from each other but it doesn’t have to be 100% in your home.

For those that HAVE A CASE: close contacts of those who have a case need to separate and be more in their homes.

The last layer is those who are sick and are waiting for test result or they’re positive. They need STRICT home isolation. Even in the home it’s important they’re separated from others in their own home – separate bedroom, etc.

It’s a progressive layering of distancing and each case is different. The misunderstanding is feeding into the fear.”

This article in the Washington Post has animation that shows “Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to “flatten the curve”.  It shows the impact on slowing the spread if people practice “social distancing” by avoiding public spaces and generally limiting their movement.

Self isolation, shelter in place, limiting trips, and social distancing, and washing hands don’t just make you safer, it makes it safer for those that have to go to work, from the folks at the grocery store who are keeping us fed, to the health professionals, doctors, nurses and pharmacists who are providing essential services, to anyone who still has to go to work.

When you stay home, limit trips, and self isolate as required, you make everyone who still has to work safer, including my colleagues at HRM.

Social Distancing Advice

Washing your hands

Washing with soap and water is the way to slow the spread of germs – rubbing hands together removes visible dirt and germs.  There a million videos about how to wash your hands now, I like this one – wash your hands like a surgeon!  https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1711355971548

Hand sanitizer is not as effective as soap and water. Find a song that you know the lyrics for and sing it for 20-30 seconds (Prince’s Raspberry Beret is mine) The provincial handwashing poster can be downloaded here

What to do if you think you have COVID-19 

Non-essential calls to 811 make it more difficult for people to reach help when they actually need it. If you develop #COVID19 symptoms, complete the online self-assessment at https://811.novascotia.ca.

DO NOT CALL 811 unless you have develop a fever, with a temperature 38°C or higher, or a cough.

If you have been experiencing issues calling 811, please call the toll-free number 1-866-770-7763 to be redirected to 811.

Advice for employers and community groups

The province also advises employers to support your employees if they need to stay home, talk with your employees about flexible hours or alternative work arrangements, consider limiting events. Businesses need to have a business continuity plan in place.

Two weeks supply, not six months!

Picture of a fully stocked costco, post virus.As Premier McNeil said on CBC earlier this week “Do not stock up for six months, this is the time to worry about your neighbour.”   MP Andy Fllmore retweeted a picture a few days ago of the Costco which had been emptie dthe previous day fully restocked overnight.  The supply chain is strong in Canada.

Grocery stores and pharmacies remain open in Italy, even while everything else has closed.  There is no chance we will run out of toilet paper as a society.

Hording and panicked buying is the only thing creating shortages and that is what could create immediate harm for your neighbours and the vulnerable.

Government Response – the details

Government of Canada

  • Increase to the Canada Child Benefit
  • Introduce an Emergency Care benefit of up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks for workers who don’t have access to paid sick leave
  • Introduce an Emergency Support Benefit for workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment
  • Provide a special top-up of the GST credit
  • Waive the requirement for a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits
  • Extend the tax filing deadline to June 1, and allow taxpayers to defer owed amounts until after August 31, 2020
  • Provide eligible small businesses with 10% wage subsidy for the next 90 days (up to $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer).
  • Increase flexibility to lenders to defer mortgage payments on homeowner government-insured mortgage loans
  • Implement a 6 month interest-free moratorium on Canada Student Loans
  • A new Community Support Fund to for Indigenous communities
  • Allow all businesses to defer, until after August 31, the payment of any income tax amounts
  • Increase the credit available to small, medium, and large businesses experiencing cash flow challenges
  • And more

The Federal government will continue to take further action as required to support Canadians through this difficult time. For more details on Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response plan: https://canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html

Province of Nova Scotia

The following measures were announced March 19 to help vulnerable Nova Scotians include:

  • $2.2 million so that every individual and family member on income assistance will receive an additional $50 starting tomorrow. People do not need to apply.
  • $1 million to help Feed Nova Scotia purchase food and hire more staff
  • Emergency funding of $230,000 for Senior Safety Programs and Community Links to help vulnerable older adults
  • Additional support for those not on income assistance and in addition to Federal programs to be announced in the coming days.

Additionally:

  • No tenant can be evicted because their income has been impacted by #COVID19, effective immediately for the next three months.
  • University students from Nova Scotia who are still living in residences need to go home, to provide space for social distancing for those students from outside the province who are not able to travel. #COVID19NS

Health care:

  • Doctors and pharmacists have new options for virtual care, using telephone and secure videoconferencing.
  • Pharmacists can renew prescriptions for most medications and government will cover the assessment fee.
  • Employers cannot require a doctor’s note if an employee must be off work. Also, fees are waived for retired doctors to renew their licences and come back to work.
  • Retired and other nurses are being brought into the system to assist with 811 staffing.

Closures:

  • personal service and fitness establishments such as hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons, body art establishments and gyms must shut down.
  • restaurants are restricted to take-out and delivery only, with no in-person dining.
  • drinking establishments, tasting rooms and taprooms must close
  • private liquor stores can continue to operate and craft breweries, wineries and distilleries can continue to sell their product from their storefronts
  • Long-term care facilities closed to visitors
  • Regulated childcare centres to be closed to April 3 and then will be reassessed
  • Casinos in Halifax and Sydney are closed
  • Anyone who travelled outside of Canada must self-isolate even if symptom-free
  • To prevent the spread of #COVID19NS there are to be no gatherings of more than 50 people.

Most up to date and correct info is always available at https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/

Halifax Regional Municipality

Essential services:

  • 311, fire, and police, are fully operational and continue to adhere to the most updated guidance and precautions from health officials.

Transit:

  • Transit is now being offered for free, no fare required.
  • Please board from the back doors to maintain social distancing from our bus drivers.
  • IMPORTANT – those with mobility issues (wheelchair users, walkers, canes) are still able to board through the front door.
  • Halifax Transit ferry service will be reduced to 30-minute service on both
  • routes.
  • Access-a-Bus passengers are being asked to limit trip requests to essential trips only, including doctor’s appointments, medical services and dialysis, and prescription pick-ups.
  • Residents and visitors who are feeling ill are asked to please avoid using all transit services until their health has returned to normal.

Parking:

  • With regards to parking, parking fees at meters in the municipality have been waived and HotSpot will not accept payment until further notice.
  • The enforcement of hourly spaces and monthly permit parking has also been suspended for the time being.
  • Residential permits will still continue to be enforced, hoThe municipalityver if your residential permit has recently expired, you will not receive a ticket.
  • You will still get ticketed if you park in a no parking or no stopping… those ares must be kept clear for safety
  • HRM has not laid off any parking enforcement, you are more likely than ever to get a ticket, so stay clear of no stopping and no parking.
  • The municipality are still asking residents to please be considerate of the duration of parking throughout the municipality.

HRM services:

  • Until further notice, HRM employees who can work from home are directed to do so. All others are to report to their usual work location and continue to exercise safe social distancing to the extent possible.
  • With the closure of all Customer Service Centres, an online service to receive construction permit applications is under development and is expected to be operational early next week.
  • Payments to vendors and suppliers will continue, as well as procurement tenders.

Other items:

  • The municipality is working closely with our colleagues at the province to find workable shelter options that meet the need for safe accommodations, including flexibility for isolation if needed.
  • The application deadline for Community Grants Programs, and the Tax Relief for Non-Profit Organizations program has been extended until May 15.
  • The municipality is currently working on coordinating efforts for volunteers and those in need for deliveries etc and will have more info Monday
  • The municipality has also developed a community info sheet that The municipality will be sending out and posting on library doors, rec centers etc for those who do not have ready access to internet on a daily basis.

Library: Effective Mar. 16, all branches of Halifax Public Libraries are closed, more info here.

Parks & Rec: Effective Tuesday, March 17 all municipally owned recreation facilities, community centres and arenas are closed, and all programs and bookings will be suspended until further notice.

Our Emergency Operations Centre will continue to operate and adjust daily due to issues that arise.

We encourage you to check on your neighbours, friends and family as it can be lonely being self isolated, and we need to ensure that everyone’s well being is monitored.

For up to date info and links visit http://halifax.ca/coronavirus

Community Response & Resources

Mental health

We have certainly experience stress, fear and anxiety this weekend in my house and extended family. You are not alone! The best ways to address concerns and support each other include:

  • listen and provide reassurance – it’s normal to have questions
  • get information from reliable sources
  • address questions and correct misinformation
  • watch for discrimination or bullying related to COVID-19
  • maintain normal routines and programming as much as possible

If you need assistance the Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team provides intervention and short-term crisis management for children, youth and adults experiencing a mental health crisis.  You can reach them at 902.429.8167 or 1.888.429.8167.

As always if you feel you are a risk of harm to yourself or others, you should call 911, or visit your local emergency department.

Municipal Taxes

All bills were mailed this week and electronic billing through EPOST was sent yesterday. While the due date for the bill is April 30, 2020 HRM recognize many customers may face economic impacts due to the COVID-19 situation that may cause them to struggle with paying their accounts. The municipality is currently looking at alternative payment options related to property taxes due April 30, 2020. To be clear, no decisions have been made yet, though HRM has in the past and will continue to provide payment plans and relief to those that need it. HRM will make sure anyone who needs an accommodation during this crisis gets the support they need.

Halifax Water Bills

No customers will be disconnected over the next 30 days. Customers should contact 902-420-9287 or customercare@Halifaxwater.ca. The COVID-19 situation  evolves daily. Halifax Water is monitoring.

Info about other utilities and banks

CBC has a great article herehttps://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/worried-about-your-bills-here-s-what-utilities-banks-and-others-are-saying-1.5501483

Helping your neighbours

Please send me links and ideas for what you are doing or seeing in your neighbourhood!

There are a great number of folks doing different things to help their neighbours:

We are going to get through this by working together and supporting one another.  Please email or message me what you see happening in your community so I can share the good news!

Working from home

My cousin Samantha who works in Texas posted these great ideas for helping to “normalize” working from home:

  • if you normally commute, go for a walk when you would typically be in your car
  • turn on video for all calls and dress like you are going to work
  • make sure oyu take time for lunch and work your normal hours
  • make a to do list and set reminders
  • get an extra monitor if you can, and turn your TV off!

Help for Business

The Centre for Women in Business at MSVU has put together this fabulous business resource.  It says “The Government of Canada and business organizations across the country are coming together to support businesses in Canada. Here is a list of resources that may be helpful to you and your business.” More here.
https://www.centreforwomeninbusiness.ca/en/home/news/covid-19/resources.aspx

Accessing Benefits & Getting Financial Help

Dr. Jennifer Robson at Carleton wrote: Here’s my first effort at a plain-language guide to benefits for working-age adults impacted by COVID-19.  If you are in an NGO, a government, media, a bank, if you run a 2-1-1 service, please feel free to use this/adapt/share.  https://docs.google.com/document/d/13kkn2TbUP2-Xavhs-Mf4XLPO0edYSzO7CBOQSM8iQH0/edit?usp=sharing

CBC also has a good explainer about what the emergency benefits are: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/apply-emergency-benefits-1.5501977

Halifax Public Libraries online resources:

Learn guitar with Lynda. Cook up something new with Cloud Cookbooks. Watch an animated story with your little one. Practice a new language. Read popular magazines. Welcome to our E-Library. Its many shelves of free online tools are yours to explore, 24/7. More here https://www.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/online-resources

Also – you can now register for a temporary digital library card online. Your library card is your passport to our collections and E-Library, and everything is free. Sign up and start exploring: https://www2.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/assets/pages/registration/

Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus

Kids, this comic is for you. It’s based on a radio story that NPR education reporter Cory Turner did. He asked some experts what kids might want to know about the new coronavirus discovered in China.
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/28/809580453/just-for-kids-a-comic-exploring-the-new-coronavirus

Playground Safety and Playing Out Doors

It is important to get out and move around while maintaining social distancing, but it is also important to keep the kids safe when at the playground and when you get home.  Government of NS recommends avoiding playgrounds that have not been cleaned and disinfected regularly which at this time is every playground.  When you go outside:

  • wash your hands before you leave
  • wash your hands when you come home
  • wash your mittens afterwards
  • avoid touching your face
  • practice social distancing (2m away)
  • Go with those in your household
  • head for a walk togehter and avoid places where a lot of people may be
  • play in your yard
  • play games on a sports field

For more tips visit https://novascotiaca/coronvirus/#protect

The Social Distancing Festival

They’ve been combing the web to find live streams from around the world. Thank you to those who submitted their own, or told us about others! Join the party!
https://www.socialdistancingfestival.com/live-streams

Fit4less Virtual Fitness

I’d been actually going to the gym since January, keeping the New Years resolution for a change, and going 3-4 times a week and I really miss it!  Well I got an email yesterday and Fit4less has put thier virtual fitness videos on youtube for everyone for free.  You can see them here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKo_zUuwkm15m3LXryULnZA

Support local artists on Bandcamp Day

Stephen Cooke from the Chronicle Herald wrote “First day of Spring, and it’s Bandcamp Day! Want to support some local artists? Here’s a Facebook thread full of suggestions. Click early, click often, the site is waiving its artist fees today. https://facebook.com/jeff.pineau/posts/10158135372494820  You can search by region, so the “Nova Scotia” tag brings up a wide range of local musicians, from OUTTACONTROLLR to Rose Cousins – click here https://bandcamp.com/tag/nova-scotia?tab=all_releases”

UPDATE non-facebook link here thank you Seahorse Tavern! http://theseahorsetavern.ca/bandcamps

Support Local Food Banks

All of our not for profit service providers are struggling at this time, but of particular concern to me are the food banks.  If you are able, I encourage you to consider a donation to Feed Nova Scotia or Parker Street Food bank so they are able to continue to do their important work.

Parker Street – https://www.parkerstreet.org/
FEED NS – https://www.feednovascotia.ca/

AND REMEMBER: Practice Information hygiene

There are many websites have all the information people may require to prepare for the coming weeks and months (listed below). It is important you get your information from official channels.

There are a lot of folks sharing incorrect and scary information. It not helpful, it is potentially dangerous.

Just like washing your hands well and a lot, it is more important than ever to practice good information hygiene. Follow official sources and reliable news outlets. Resist the impulse to share stories or news from other sources. Don’t believe it, and don’t spread it.

It undermines public health officials and it undercuts their messaging and could put lives at risk\

Coronavirus Links

Websites

For information on coronavirus and how Nova Scotia is responding
https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/

For information on what Halifax is doing to support the response:
https://halifax.ca/coronavirus

Government of Canada – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Being prepared
https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/being-prepared.html

Government of Canada – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Travel advice
https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/latest-travel-health-advice.html]

Deeper Dive into more detailed resources:

Federation of Canadian Municipalities – in depth list of Federal resources and links to every province
https://fcm.ca/en/resources/covid-19-resources-municipalities

Word Health Organization – Coronavirus info from the global agency responsible for health.
https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

Social Media

Facebook:

Nova Scotia Health and Wellness
Healthy Canadians
Travel Advice from the Government of Canada
Halifax

Twitter:
NS Health @nshealth
Halifax @hfxgov
Government of Canada Travel advice @TravelGoC
Government of Canada Health @GovCanHealth
Canada Public Health @CPHO_Canada

LinkedIn:
Public Health Agency of Canada