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Coronavirus  

Vernon council approves expansion of patio space for restaurants

More restaurant patio space

Vernon city council unanimously agreed to allow downtown businesses to expand their patio area into city street parking spaces in an effort to adhere to social distancing orders and potentially increase revenue.

The motion will come into effect on June 1 and will carry through until the end of September. Businesses will not need a permit or have to pay a fee to do so as long as they enter into a use agreement and abide by the conditions.

Patio seats will not extend into the parking spaces themselves – the parking spaces will be used as a thoroughfare for pedestrians to walk around the business' setup that will be taking place on the sidewalk. Businesses will only be allowed to use one parking space that is adjacent to their storefront to allow for some parking to still occur in the downtown core.

In the original motion, businesses with off-street parking lots would have been allowed to expand their commercial use by sectioning off up to 25 per cent of their parking lot, but thanks to a friendly amendment from Coun. Akbal Mund, that number was bumped up to 50 per cent after council agreed.

Council also agreed to refund collected fees for the 2020 Sidewalk and Boulevard Area permits totalling less than $3,500, which will be taken from the Business License Account.

City staff will also consult with the Downtown Vernon Association on the potential closure to through traffic on all or some blocks of 30th Avenue between 29th Street and 35th Street, and will report the conclusions of that meeting back to council in June.





Some businesses better off staying closed: Chamber president

Better off staying closed?

Some businesses could be better off staying closed than risk re-opening during the second phase of the B.C.’s government's plan to safely and gradually re-open the economy, according to Val Litwin, president and CEO, BC Chamber of Commerce.

“This crisis isn’t over for BC businesses. You can go out of business much faster with a partial or failed reopen than you can a temporary closure,” Litwin said. “Policy-makers must appreciate that business models will be very fragile during this early stage of the recovery cycle and that ongoing supports will be essential.”

Only 26 per cent of businesses impacted by COVID-19 feel able to restart and operate profitably with the gradual easing of restrictions, according to a survey of 1,343 member-businesses of the BC Chamber of Commerce, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, Business Council of British Columbia, and other partners. 

The survey, conducted with the Mustel Group, was released May 22.

Given the challenges to restarting operations, over half of the members surveyed (55 per cent) expect it will take at least two months to restart.

The survey also found that 43 per cent of  businesses expect that they will still require significant and additional financial support or incentives from the provincial and federal government in order to continue operating. 

One of the challenges for business tenants is paying the rent.

The survey found that 26 per cent of commercial tenants were unable to pay their rent in full in April. The primary reason is that they were shut down and had no revenue (75 per cent). Others had no access to the federal Commercial Rental Assistance ( 30 per cent), while 19 per cent said they could not come to terms with their landlord.

In terms of businesses that have closed temporarily, the level is slightly higher in urban markets (50 per cent) than in rural (42 per cent), with the incidence highest in healthcare and social assistance; arts and entertainment; and accommodation and food services, all above 68 per cent.

Among retail establishments, 58 per cent will remain closed, at least temporarily. 

“The survey data shows virtually all respondents continue to experience lost revenue as a result of COVID-19 and restart efforts will be hampered by an inability to attract new and returning customers. We are facing the worst year for B.C.’s economy and job market in a century,” said Greg D'Avignon, president & CEO of the Business Council of British Columbia. He called on governments to “expedite economic activity and address competitiveness barriers in the form of tax, regulatory and process costs that stand in the way of businesses re-hiring the nearly 400,000 employees who’ve lost their jobs.”



Pandemic changes force Vernon gym out of business

Gym latest COVID victim

A Vernon gym has fallen victim to the coronavirus.

9Round Fitness announced on its Facebook page Monday that it will not be reopening.

"Thank you for your patience during this unprecedented time," management said in the post. "We can tell you it has been the most emotionally difficult time of our lives. 

"Not knowing if or when the curve will flatten, having to deal with the 9Round bills we had to continue to pay knowing that we haven't been able to apply to any relief financial program, losing members daily because they or their partners have lost their jobs as well and can no longer afford a membership even after the fact."

The gym owners said new rules would be difficult or impossible to implement, "and the additional cost would put our head even more under the water."

"The risk of reopening during this time with such drastic alterations to our operations would just add more financial and emotional stress than we can possibly take."

The business had operated at Vernon Square mall for the past three years. 





Dr. Bonnie Henry's face on t-shirt raises thousands for charity

Dr. Henry t-shirt raises $10k

As a way of thanking Dr. Bonnie Henry for her work during the COVID-19 pandemic, two Victoria residents have printed her face onto a t-shirt being sold for charity. 

CTV News Vancouver Island reports the t-shirt fundraiser was the brainchild of Joanna Witham and Katherine McCallion, who designed the t-shirts with the help of a friend to raise money for the Rainbow Kitchen Society in Esquimalt.

In just a few weeks, the t-shirts have raised more than $10,000 to help Rainbow Kitchen continue to serve free daily meals to people in need and host community programs. 

“People are so excited because it’s going towards a good cause and they want to support the Rainbow Kitchen in this way,” says Witham.

“For everyone to get behind Dr. Bonnie Henry and to celebrate her in the way that we all believe she deserves to be celebrated is awesome.”

Rainbow Kitchen director Patrick Johnstone says the $10,000 that has already been raised couldn't come at a better time, as demand for their free meals has doubled during the pandemic. 

“That is 3,000 meals going out the door for us being able to provide. That’s 15 days’ worth of goods.

“[Henry] deserves the accolades. It is a tough job and thank goodness we have someone leading us like her.”

The t-shirts will be available for sale until the end of May and can be purchased online here

- with files from CTV News Vancouver Island 



The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada

COVID-19: today's numbers

The latest numbers of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Canada as of May 25:

There are 85,698 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 47,984 confirmed (including 4,069 deaths, 14,654 resolved)

_ Ontario: 25,904 confirmed (including 2,102 deaths, 19,698 resolved)

_ Alberta: 6,879 confirmed (including 138 deaths, 5,979 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 2,517 confirmed (including 157 deaths, 2,057 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,051 confirmed (including 58 deaths, 974 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 634 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 546 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 281 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 268 resolved), 11 presumptive

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 260 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 254 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 121 confirmed (including 120 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 27 confirmed (including 27 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Yukon: 11 confirmed (including 11 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 85,698 (11 presumptive, 85,687 confirmed including 6,541 deaths, 44,606 resolved)



50-vehicle limit applies to drive-in theatres: Dr. Henry

Drive-ins hit by order

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed Monday her order limiting gatherings to fewer than 50 vehicles does apply to drive-in movie theatres like the Starlight in Enderby. 

The Starlight said over the weekend it was seeking clarification to the order, which came down Friday afternoon, over if the order was directed at just pop-up events or also included established drive-in movie theatres. 

Dr. Henry said Monday the 50-vehicle limit applies to both theatres and special events.

“Yes we have a less risky environment when we have people in cars, yes you can have more than one person in a car, but that becomes a very challenging situation when you have large numbers of vehicles,” she said. “To be able to monitor and ensure that you don’t have those multiple numbers of connections, becomes much more challenging.”

When questioned as to when the rules may be loosened so drive-in theatres like the Starlight could run a viable business this summer, Henry would not speculate. 

“This is what we need to do right now. This is not forever, but it is for this phase,” she said.

“It depends how things go in the coming weeks to months, and maybe we will be at a point come the summer where we will be able to expand things. But I can’t predict that.”

She said rules around public gatherings are being constantly reviewed, but the province is taking a cautious approach.

“We do not want to go back to where we were,” she said.

“It's about trying to have a reasonable approach that we will be able to sustain where we won’t put people at risk over the coming weeks and months.”



LIVE: BC announces 12 new virus cases, 4 deaths

12 new cases, 4 deaths

The provincial government have announced Monday 12 new coronavirus cases and four deaths in the past 48 hours. 

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said five of those cases came Saturday/Sunday while seven more were confirmed Sunday and today.

There has now been a total of 2,530 COVID-19 cases in B.C. No new cases have been confirmed in the Interior Health region, where a total of 194 people have tested positive. 

There are 267 active coronavirus cases in B.C., with 37 people in the hospital. 

“The key to our success in this phase and in the future is all of us working together,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said, as the province enters its second week of reopening. 

She said British Columbians have in general heeded the advice of healthcare officials, which she finds “heartening.”

With the four deaths announced Monday, a total of 161 people have now been killed by the virus in B.C. All of Monday's death occurred at a seniors care home in Langley. 



Why BC will have trouble putting the genie back in the beer bottle

Changes will likely stay

Ken Beattie is old enough to recall when B.C. pubs had to keep their doors closed to anyone looking for a cold one on a Sunday.

“Then Expo [86] came, they allowed it, and they realized, ‘Hey, it wasn’t mayhem,’” said the executive director of the BC Craft Brewers Guild.

The province planned to loosen those Sunday restrictions for only five months during the world’s fair, but the changes proved popular and were never rolled back.

Now as the hospitality sector grapples with cratering revenue as a result of the pandemic, the province and City of Vancouver have embarked on loosening restrictions on serving liquor.

Beattie said it will be difficult for different levels of government to put the genie back in the bottle after the pandemic subsides and consumers get used to the new normal.

In March the province began allowing restaurants to deliver liquor with takeout orders – a first for B.C.

The province is also working with industry to allow restaurants to buy alcohol at wholesale prices, potentially boosting the margins for those establishments.

And on May 22 the B.C. government announced plans for an "expedited approval process for faster processing times" for licensed patios.

This month Vancouver city council and city staff began work on allowing pubs and restaurants to have access to more patio space than what was previously granted.

Breweries with tasting rooms are also in line to get patio space for the first time.

Beattie’s industry group had been working with city council on the issue prior to the pandemic as a means of boosting revenue while breweries contend with mounting costs associated with property assessments.

He said patios will be a good test of whether bureaucracy can take a backseat to economic recovery.

“They’ll like the tax revenue,” Beattie said.

Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, anticipates permanent changes following the pandemic.

“The public won’t want this to go away,” he said. “The business side will say, ‘These are necessary components for our future survival.’ Because we’re talking years here, we’re not talking months to fix this.”

David Hardisty, an assistant professor specializing in consumer behaviour at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, said it will be difficult for government to roll back the new rules.

“People are going to get used to the new normal, and they’ll see the world’s not falling apart,” he said, adding restrictions would likely only return if a compelling argument could be made for health reasons.

In 2014 B.C. became the last province to allow happy hour specials, relaxing rules but requiring all establishments to charge minimum prices.

At the time, BC Liberal justice minister Suzanne Anton said minimum pricing was needed due to health concerns.

Hardisty said, “Alcohol can lead to problems, but I don’t think you’re going to get any more problems if you’re drinking on a patio versus inside a restaurant or you’re buying it at the store versus delivering it to your home.

“People in general are more sensitive to losses than gains.… If you’re going to take away a freedom from people, then you’re going to have to have a good reason.”



City keeping an eye on public in outdoor spaces

Keeping an eye on facilities

With restrictions being lifted, the City of Pentiction is reminding visitors of parks, beaches and outdoor facilities to be aware of COVID-19 safety measures. 

The Emergency Operations Centre says they will be monitoring outdoor spaces to assess whether the public is abiding by the guidelines. 

“We applaud those many groups who have found creative ways to socialize outdoors while maintaining physical distancing,” said Bregje Kozak, EOC deputy director and the City’s director of recreation & facilities. 

“However, we have also seen instances of people not abiding by the restrictions, particularly at some outdoor recreation sites. We will continue to assess these locations and encourage everyone to pay attention to the posted signage.”

While visiting a park or beach:

  • Ensure gatherings are small, with no congregating between groups. 
  • Keep your distance of at least two metres from others, including in parking lots.
  • Wash or sanitize hands frequently and upon returning home. 
  • Please dispose of any garbage or recycling in the bins provided.

While using an outdoor recreation facility, in addition to the above: 

  • Stay two metres apart from other players at all times. 
  • Limit play to single or doubles with partners from the same household.
  • Clearly mark your balls and refrain from picking up others.
  • Do not share racquets or other equipment.

“The threat of COVID-19 is not over, and it’s important we continue to follow these safety measures,” said Penticton Mayor, John Vassilaki.

“For example, when you’re walking along the boardwalks, please remember to be respectful of others and move into single file if necessary. Thank you for showing your consideration for others and let’s continue to be safe.”



Prime Minister Trudeau addresses Canadians on COVID-19

PM pushes for sick leave

YouTube CPAC

UPDATE: 9:38 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he'll push the provinces to give workers 10 days of paid sick leave a year as the country deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

That appears to meet a key demand from NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in exchange for the New Democrats' support for a motion to limit sittings and votes in the House of Commons through the summer.

Singh laid out the demands on Monday morning, shortly before a small number of members of Parliament returned to the House of Commons to begin debate over the future of parliamentary sittings for as long as several months.

The debate will revolve around a Liberal proposal to waive "normal" House of Commons sittings in favour of expanding the special COVID-19 committee that has acted as a sort of stand-in for the past month.

Because they hold only a minority of seats, the Liberals need the support of at least one of the main opposition parties to pass this motion.

The Conservatives are expected to oppose the motion as they push for an end to the COVID-19 committee and the resumption of Commons sittings, albeit with no more than 50 MPs in the chamber at any time.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Jean-Yves Blanchet said Monday his party isn't participating in negotiations around the return of Parliament.

The Bloc previously laid out a set of conditions it wanted met before it would engage in discussions around how Parliament could sit.

Those included more help for businesses to cover their fixed overhead costs and a straightforward plan for how the Liberals would follow through on a promise of financial support for seniors.

Blanchet said the Liberals have followed through on neither, and ensuring they do is his priority.

"Every time we spend five minutes talking about parliamentary rules, we're spending five minutes less talking about what Quebecers require," he said.

He said his party will likely go along with whatever consensus is arrived at to govern how the House of Commons sits for the next while. The Bloc won't argue about who drives that bus or where it's going, Blanchet said, but when it comes, the Bloc will probably get on board.

That leaves the NDP, with Singh said his party is willing to support Liberals' motion — for a price.

"We are continuing to make it clear that we need a commitment that the government is willing to provide paid sick leave for all Canadians," Singh said during a news conference on Parliament Hill.

"We're suggesting the government can use something like the (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) or employment insurance to deliver that program federally immediately. But we want to see something that is long term and that will require working with provinces and employers to deliver a long-term commitment so that forever in our country, everyone who needs paid sick leave will have access to it."


UPDATE 8:58 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians have a responsibility to themselves and to the people around them to follow public health rules to slow the spread of COVID-19.

He also says that people will have to keep adjusting routines as the country moves into summer.

He says any reopening of public spaces and restoration of economic activity will have to happen gradually and carefully.

Speaking outside his Ottawa residence, Trudeau says any steps will require robust contact tracing and testing.


UPDATE 8:43 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he'll push the provinces to give workers 10 days of paid sick leave a year as the country deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

That appears to meet a key demand from NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in exchange for the New Democrats' support for a motion to limit sittings and votes in the House of Commons through the summer.


ORIGINAL 8:00 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update in Ottawa on the federal government's response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

– with files from the Canadian Press



One more week for British Columbians to take COVID-19 survey

Last week for COVID survey

B.C. residents who haven't yet taken the province's COVID-19 survey have until May 31 to do so.

The survey, dubbed "BC COVID-19 SPEAK: Your story, our future," seeks to understand citizen experiences, knowledge and actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a goal of strengthening the province's pandemic response moving forward.

The survey is open to all British Columbians aged 18 and up and takes 20-30 minutes to complete.

Language translation services are available by calling 1-833-707-1900 (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

Residents are also asked to help people in their lives participate.

"If you know someone who may have difficulty accessing or using a computer, open the survey via the link above, give them a call, and go through all the questions, inputting their answers into the online survey on their behalf," reads a post on the BC Centre for Disease Control's website.

"We need your help to prepare for B.C.'s future, and every voice counts."

Take the survey at http://www.bccdc.ca/covid19survey.



Predator Ridge opens golf courses, trails and more

Predator golf, trails open

With everybody looking to take advantage of the great outdoors, Predator Ridge is offering some green space for the public to enjoy.

Predator's golf courses are now open for members, and they are hoping to open up to the public in early June. It has been a slow start to the season, but with summer weather and the province's phased reopening plan the resort expects its courses to be in full swing soon.

35 kilometres of hiking trails and 13 kilometres of biking trails are now open, along with tennis and pickleball facilities. Currently the tennis and pickleball courts are only open to members, but are expected to be open for public use in June. Wineries, beaches and access to the Okanagan Rail Trail are also available.

Predator Ridge is also working to open their accommodations for the third phase of the B.C. government's reopening plan, which also has an expected June date. They are designing specialty flexible activity packages centred around their property's amenities.

The resort's restaurants have been offering local delivery and curbside pickup during the pandemic, and continue to do so, and they hope to reopen their seating spaces soon.

For more information on Predator Ridge's activities and planned reopening, you can visit their Community Resources page.



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