Coronavirus update 24, May 8 2020 | provincial opening plan, making walking and biking safer during covid, hfxalert, more

Today the province reported two additional deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the total to 46. The deaths occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax Regional Municipality. The tragedy at Northwood is real and horrible and I feel so badly for all the families, residents, and staff who are impacted.

Only one new case was identified on Thursday, May 7.

So we are getting closer and closer to phase 1 of reopening the Province. While I speculated that schools might open in June, the Premier and Dr. Strang said today schools are closed until September.

Daycares and other childcare may (MAYBE!) reopen in June though. But we are starting to get to a place where we can start to emerge from isolation so that is good news.

There is a lot of discussion on social media about what kind of changes might happen to Halifax streets to help people remain physically (socially) distant when we start to return to work.

Right now I see three main buckets of work that need to happen, which would all have short, medium, and longer-term components.

First is pedestrian safety which is the top concern. Relieving crowding on busy sidewalks where people are walking to work, shopping on the main street, waiting for a downtown bus, going to a park are priorities. Anywhere there is a pinch point or pedestrian congestion, Halifax needs to make changes. That could be making sidewalks on Barrington and Spring Garden wider with pylons, or just around bus stops and approaches to the ferry terminal, and other similar measures.

Some of the work that needs to happen can be easily predicted, but some things will have to be done reactively as we see where the problems are. I know the staff is working on this and I expect to see changes start to go into place before the province announces phase one.

The second bucket is how can we help small businesses, especially restaurants. Seating will be reduced in restaurants so can we make more in the streets. I expect we will see Argyle Street closed possibly every day all spring summer and fall and to allow for more tables and chairs.  I have a notice of motion for Council Tuesday to waive fees on sidewalk cafes for 2020.  I’m working with Downtown Halifax Business Commission and the Restaurant Association to identify where else this kind of thing can happen, and I’ve talked to Councillor Austin about it and he has similar ideas for Dartmouth. Of course, this would not happen until restaurants are allowed to reopen.

Third is cycling infrastructure. I expect a lot of folks who rely on transit or carpooling will hesitate to use those modes, and they will be joined people looking for healthy alternatives while gyms are closed and will choose to walk and cycle instead until a vaccine is available.

HRM already has the regional center minimum grid program already funded by the Feds and Province, so can we build it faster? We have about 7 km going in this year alone, not including some tactical installations that I also hope will happen.

Minimum grid bike lanes plan.

Colours are built (some need upgrades), except red which is being built this year, and grey that will be coming in the next 2-3 years

Can we use temporary or even better permanent measures to build the plan even more quickly? That was what Councillor Cleary’s motion was about, which passed at the last Council meeting. 

I expect to see some announcements and activity in the next 2-4 works timed for around the start of phase one, and the municipality must move forward in a measured, proactive manner with some quick hits, followed by medium and long term changes to accommodate the very real public health requirements we will face for the next 18-24 months.

Residents should know that parking meter fares and fines should return in the next few weeks, prior to phase 1. I pushed hard to get parking fines and meters stopped early in this crisis after having many many calls and emails about VON, social workers, long term care workers, and family members getting ticketed while trying to take care of the elderly and shut-ins. It was without a doubt the right thing to do morally and ethically, and I am proud HRM did this. Now that we are past the peak people need to get ready for parking restrictions to come back soon.

I wrote about Sea Halifax, a project of David Yetman from Century 21 All Points in a past update. David has taken his 360 camera gear and captured nice views on sunny days on the Seaport Market, Halifax Boardwalk, and Argyle Street. He has added Public Gardens now that it is open, check it out here

Residents are reminded to sign up for hfxALERT, the new mass notification system for the municipality, keeping residents informed about emergencies and operations updates. hfxALERT will send urgent and non-urgent notifications and is now being used to send COVID-19 related updates. Sign up today.

Finally, Parkland Lifestyle Residences is the name of new Shannex development at Willowtree site on the corner of Robie Street and Quinpool Road. Residents have likely noticed that fencing was recently installed around the site. With this in place, we will begin construction activity soon. The first step will be to conduct the demolition of the existing parking garage structure. This will be followed by demolition activity on the neighbouring structure. They expect this to start during the week of May 11 and will take approximately 10 months if all goes well.