The situation around Covid-19 continues to change. Here’s the latest from HRM as well as a few other items as of March 24.
Probably the most confusing piece over the last few days has been situation around parks and trails. The Province’s declaration of a statement of emergency closed all provincial and municipal parks, but provincial officials indicated that provincial trails are open as long as you aren’t travelling far to get to them. HRM doesn’t have any sort of classification to separate parks and trails: publicly accessible green spaces in HRM are all considered parks, and the Province’s written order to close all park spaces didn’t include any sort of exemptions. With that in mind, HRM interpreted the emergency declaration as closing all HRM greenspaces from Point Pleasant and Shubie, to neighbourhood playgrounds, to trails. The results was understandable confusion. I’m not faulting the Province here. This sort of thing is what happens during a crisis as people respond to what’s happening as quickly as they can. It’s the nature of fast-moving and urgent events.
HRM staff have since clarified the situation around trails. Municipal parks are closed as per the Provincial order, but spaces that are more purely trails are open. So in District 5, this would mean you can use the Banook Greenway, Mount Hope Greenway, the Harbour Trail, and all the street-to-street walkways, but trails that go through Parks like the Dartmouth Common, Birch Cove, and Sullivan’s Pond are closed.
I realize that there are places that are a somewhat on the border between these two things. Is Oathill Lake Park a trail or park? It’s called a park, but there are no spaces to gather in it, and it’s one long loop. I have asked specifically about Oathill as it’s probably the one that’s the least clear in District 5. I’m hoping that we’ll eventually get a list of what’s open since, without a list, questions will remain. I ask for your understanding on this as the closure of parks has happened quickly and with over 900 municipal green spaces in HRM, it’s a big logistical job to figure out what it all means in terms of exceptions.
One very important note. The rules set by the Province that HRM is following are clear, you shouldn’t be travelling to get to green spaces. The intent is to allow use of local trails by local residents for walking. It’s not an invitation to travel or gather in our most beautiful outdoor spaces. If you have to hop in the car to get there, you’re going too far.
HRM has officially pulled the plug on all remaining spring recreation programming. Registration for summer programming that was scheduled to begin April 1 is also cancelled. HRM isn’t sure yet whether they’ll be programming this summer, but the municipality is definitely not in a position to have summer registration proceed.
Provincial Emergency Declaration:
I have been keeping my newsletter focussed on the municipal impacts rather than trying to speak for other orders of government. I did want to make note though that under the Statement of Emergency, summary offence tickets can now be issued by police to enforce social distancing and self-isolation. That would be $1,000 for individuals for each instance and $7,500 for organizations. Obviously the police aren’t looking to lay fines, the potential for fines is to ensure compliance.
Also, all borders into the Province are being controlled and anyone who has been outside of Nova Scotia is required to self-isolate. This isn’t just international travel anymore. Everyone else must use social distancing and limit gatherings to five or less. The Province is improving on testing too, with the QEII Lab now able to complete testing on its own. No need to send samples to Winnipeg to confirm presumptive cases are Covid-19.
Covid-19’s shutdown is having a devastating impact on many of our small businesses. Some have shutdown entirely during the crisis, and others have gone online. There is a lot of pain out there. One of the small business hubs in our community is the Alderney Farmers Market and on Saturday, the Market has joined the online world. If you’re missing your weekly market fix, you can order from Alderney’s online store here.
The way it works is orders received before noon Thursday get packaged up for pick-up on Saturday morning in the parking lot, or for home delivery. If you opt to pickup and come by car, you must stay in your car and your order will be brought to you by a market attendant wearing safety gear. If you’re picking up your order in person, social distancing must be observed. The line-up area has been marked in regular increments to ensure that distancing between customers is maintained. Pick-up times have also been set by last name to limit crowds.
Besides the market, many local businesses in Downtown Dartmouth and throughout HRM are doing home delivery or pick-up. Halifax Retales has compiled a searchable list. Check it out here.
United Way Campaign:
I have received a few notes from people asking how they can help others during this challenging time. Unfortunately, crises tend to disproportionately affect the most vulnerable and Covid-19 is no exception. Volunteer opportunities are few because of the need for social distancing, but one option for those who are able is the United Way’s newly established Compassion Fund. With many people losing work or facing additional stress, a lot of the non-profits are feeling the strain of increasing demands. The United Way’s Compassion Fund is aimed at helping people with the basics. Donations are being matched by Atlantic Business Interiors. For more info, visit the United Way’s page here.
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 for 14 days if you’ve returned from 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. Hoarding hurts the most vulnerable. Please think about what basic supplies you realistically need, not what you might need for the next several months.