E-News Covid Updates #5

Latest updates from HRM and District 5 as of March 27.

There has been a fair bit of discussion this week regarding transit. It’s understandable that there is concern. HRM is taking the direction of public health on this seriously. To protect staff, HRM has separated drivers from the public by doing away with fares, going to rear door boarding for anyone who is able, and taping off the front seats. Drivers are as isolated as we can make them! The number of passengers on buses has also been limited to the number of seats. HRM is in regular contact with Public Health to ensure that transit is as safe as we can make it.

HRM has had to reduce transit service, largely due to staff availability, by 30%. Basically HRM has implemented a hybrid Saturday schedule. Ridership has declined sharply at the same time though, which has largely prevented crowding. I did hear some concerns about the 60 this week after the new schedule was implemented. With three retirement homes and the Dartmouth General along the Pleasant Street corridor, the 60 is a pretty essential route! I’m pleased to report that staff were able to address by shifting some of transit’s articulated buses (the long ones) onto the 60 to provide more space for riders.

Some of the discussion in the press this week around transit has been around whether it should be shut down. I haven’t been supportive of this because public health hasn’t indicated it’s necessary (at times like this we should be listening to the experts), and because transit is essential to keeping society functioning. Healthcare workers need the bus to get to work, as do many others such as retail workers in grocery stores and pharmacies. There are also many people who depend on transit to get out and retrieve basic supplies. Closing down transit is a last resort.

Today, the Province has made transit’s essential nature clear by amending the State of Emergency to declare transit an essential service during the Covid-19 crisis. The buses won’t be going off the road except as a last resort situation. You can read the Provincial order here.

Oathill Lake. Photo: Explore Dartmouth

The confusion around parks versus trails has largely worked itself out over the week. Parks are closed, trails are open. In District 5, that means places such as the Dartmouth Common, Brownlow, Cyril Smith, Ferry Terminal Park, Northbrook, Sullivan’s Pond, etc are closed. The outdoor spaces that are open in District 5 are the Harbour Trail, Banook Greenway, Woodside/Mount Hope Multi-use Trail, and Oathill Lake.

On the Banook Greenway, please note that the parks in the area are closed. You can use the trail, but Birch Cove, Findlay, and Grahams Grove are closed. No one should be in these parks. This includes the portion of trail that runs through Birch Cove and Findlay. Oathill Lake was previously identified as closed. Staff have since reviewed and since it’s linear, and has no gathering places, it is really more trail-like than park-like. Oathill is now considered open.

Please keep in mind that social distancing must still be maintained on the trails and that “open” means local use only. If you need to hop in the car to get to any of these trails, you’re doing it wrong. It looks like a nice weekend weather-wise and if the trails end up being really crowded, HRM or the Province could review the open designations. Right now though, on this Friday afternoon, they’re open.

Photo: CBC

Like everything else in society, Council’s meetings have been disrupted. As part of the state of emergency, the Province is allowing municipalities to meet virtually to ensure that essential business doesn’t grind to a halt. Our first virtual meeting is scheduled for April 2. What this will look like from a technical standpoint and what opportunities there will be for the public to follow what happens is a bit of an unknown at this time. It would be nice to broadcast it, but I’m not sure if that will be possible. Minutes and a record of decisions and an agenda of what’s being discussed plus accompanying reports will of course be available.

One of the key questions that Council will be looking at is what HRM can do around property taxes given that many people have lost their jobs and businesses have been forced to close. Hopefully federal and provincial aid will be available and easily accessible because this isn’t something that HRM can fix by itself. Details around the federal and provincial programs are starting to come into focus so we’ll hopefully know more soon about how we’re all going to cope with this economic disaster.

Waste Collection:
Waste collection is proceeding as normal. I have had a few people ask about bag limits now that many people are home full-time. Staff are monitoring how much waste is being generated and, so far, there hasn’t been a big surge in garbage so no adjustments are being contemplated right now. That could change depending on circumstances.

All three orders of government have webpages set up to share information on the coronavirus. Check them out below.

Nova Scotia

Buy Local
In addition to Halifax Retales summary of bars and restaurants and other services that have gone online, a neighbour of mine has created a website listing local food sources that offer delivery or pick-up. Check it out here This is a very difficult time for small business and I would encourage anyone who can to support local.

Mental Health
Times like this can be very taxing on everyone. There is a national mental health hotline that can be reached at 1-833-456-4566 or text “talk” to 686868

For younger residents, the Kid’s Help Phone is 1-800-668-6868

And finally, the Nova Scotia Mobile Mental Health Crisis line is: 1-888-429-8167

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-19 line 1-833-784-4397 if you have general questions about the virus
  • DO self-isolate if you’ve travelled in the last 14 days.
  • DO NOT hoard 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.
Brightwood Birthday Party. Photo: Darren Calabrese

Brightwood Birthday:
Just one final note. These are challenging times. It’s easy to feel down. So I want to share some good news that made it into the national press from right here in Dartmouth. Covid-19 cancel your birthday plans? Dartmouth’s Brightwood neighbourhood has you covered. Check out this heartwarming story in the Globe and Mail. Well done Brightwood!