E-News March #3 (Covid Updates)

News:

The situation around Covid-19 continues to evolve rapidly. Here’s the latest from HRM as of March 20.

Photo: Leading With Transit

Transit:
Transit ridership has plummeted as a result of Covid-19. Ridership is down 62%. This is the one and only time where declining transit ridership is a good thing since we want people to stay home if they can. Transit is also under pressure staffing routes as many employees are afraid of potential exposure to covid-19. HRM has taken a number of steps to isolate drivers, but the risk can’t be brought down to zero.

Given the declining ridership and staff concerns, Transit is reducing service. Starting today, the Alderney Ferry will run on a 30 minute schedule rather than every 15 minutes. Next week on Monday, service for conventional transit will be reduced by 30% with many routes moving to what would normally be a Saturday schedule. Saturday schedules will apply to:

1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 21, 22, 25, 28, 29, 30, 39, 51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 65, 66, 68, 72, 84, 87, 88, 90, 91. 320

Additionally, they’ll be no service at all on:

41, 63, 93

Service reductions are not ideal, but we’re living in extraordinary times. I will say for my part, that I very much understand that many people who are essential to keeping society functioning including healthcare workers, and employees at grocery stores and pharmacies rely on transit. I also understand that for many others, it’s their only way of getting out to pickup essential supplies. Keeping some sort of operating transit system is important for those reasons and it’s my hope that we’re able to keep transit on the road during this crisis.

Access-a-Bus is operating as usual, but Transit is requesting that passengers limit their trips to the essentials.

A reminder that measures already in place affecting transit include:

  • rear door boarding to minimize any potential contact with the driver
  • only as many passenger as their are seats (so far a non-issue as most buses are almost empty)
  • seat behind the driver is blocked off
  • fare collection has been suspended
  • increased cleaning

Library:
All library branches are closed, but the library is more than just a physical place. The library has an e-book collection and other electronic resources that can be accessed online. They may just help pass the time in this period of social distancing and self-isolation. Don’t have a library card? No problem. You can get a temporary one online. Just visit the Library’s page here.

Halifax Water:
In a world where cleaning wipes have become a hot commodity, Halifax Water is reminding everyone that the word “flushable” is a big misnomer. There is no such thing as a flushable wipe. The wastewater system is built to handle toilet paper only. Wipes don’t break down and flushing them could clog your sewer line or cause problems elsewhere in the system. Please place wipes in the garbage. They’re not flushable.

Property Taxes:
HRM’s regular property tax bills have been sent out. The due date is April 30. The municipality recognizes that many people and businesses may be facing economic impacts due to Covid-19. HRM is looking at alternative payment options, but no decisions have been made yet though.

The challenge for HRM is the municipality runs much more like a household than the federal and provincial governments do with what’s coming in matching what goes out. We’re less able to run a deficit.

HRM has always been willing to be flexible and provide payment plans and relief to those that need it and the same holds true today. My advice if you’re having difficulties due to Covid-19 is to not rush out to pay that April 30 tax bill. Wait see what relief from the federal and provincial governments looks like and what HRM might bring forward over the next few weeks.

Photo: CBC

Parking:
HRM is waiving meter fees, and won’t be enforcing hourly and monthly permits. Residential permit parking will still be enforced, but if you have an expired residential permit, you won’t be ticketed. Tickets issued before noon on March 19 are still valid and can be paid online, or by mail. Suspension of parking enforcement isn’t an invitation to go out or to park wherever you want. HRM will still enforce safety related issues such as parking in no stopping zones, crosswalks, by fire hydrants etc. Don’t be a jerk.

Solid Waste:
Regular garbage, recylcing and green cart collection is still a go. The household special waste program though has been suspended. Ditto for the refrigerant gas removal program.

Grant Programs Deadline Extensions:
Deadlines for two of HRM’s major grant programs, community grants, and tax relief for non-profits have been extended. Both are now due May 15.

The Home Office:
I’m very, very happy to be back in Canada today. My family and I flew out on the 8th and a few days later the world changed all around us. Day 1 of our 14 days of self-isolation coming up, but no more stressing over our return. As noted, I won’t be scheduling in-person meetings until further notice, but I’m available by email or phone.

General:
A reminder too of the dos and don’ts.

  • DO wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently
  • DO call 811 to get a referral if you meet the criteria
  • DO NOT go to your Doctor or the Emergency Room if you think you may have COVID-19
  • DO NOT call 811 unless you meet the criteria. 811 can’t help us if they’re overwhelmed. Review the criteria before you call.
  • DO call the federal government’s special Covid-9 line 1-833-784-4397 if you have general questions about the virus.
  • DO NOT go to work or send your kids to school or daycare for 14 days if you’ve returned from international travel.
  • DO NOT horde toilet paper, groceries or other supplies. The empty store shelves are a society-induced event. There has been no disruption to supplies. Hording hurts the most vulnerable. Please think about what basic supplies you realistically need for 72 hours, not what you might need for the next several months.

All three orders of government have webpages setup to share information on the corona virus. Check them out below.

Nova Scotia
Federal
HRM

2 Comments

  1. Good morning Councillor Austin and welcome back.

    On your next update of the Covid, I will appreciate if you can kindly describe how to keep a social distance of 2 metres especially now that we have provincial emergency and large fines.

    For e.g., how does one keep that distance in small pharmacies or corner stores?

    I am aware it is not a municipal domain, but you seem to give good info. I have not seen any provincial web documents explaining that in practical terms. The info you provide would be useful to all readers of your pages, I presume.

    Also as a `practicing environmentalist’, I never bought a replacement car after I got rid of my Chevy in 1998. Hence, I take municipal transit almost everywhere. How does one keep `social distance’ in transit as well?

    Hope you and your family are doing well during your self-isolation.

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