UPDATE: New Westminster calls special council meeting to cope with COVID-19

Meeting to be livestreamed

Stay home.

That’s the message that Mayor Jonathan Cote had for residents on March 19, a day when provincial officials announced 40 new cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and one new death in British Columbia. As of March 19, there were 271 cases of COVID-19 in B.C., with eight people having died, five having recovered, 17 remaining in hospital (including nine in intensive care) and the others recovering at home.

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“We really want to be calling on all residents in the City of New Westminster to be strictly adhering to the measures put out by the medical health officer. I want to encourage all residents to stay home as much as possible,” Cote told the Record. “Outside of getting food or medical supplies or going to work, I strongly feel residents should be staying home, and I encourage all New West residents to practising significant social distancing and staying home as much as possible.”

In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, has banned gatherings of more than 50 people, has declared a public health emergency, and has ordered bars and nightclubs to close because they can’t guarantee the kind of safe social distancing that’s needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It’s recommended that people stay two metres or 6.5 feet apart.

New Westminster city council’s next meeting was set to be on Monday, March 30, but council has called a special regular meeting for Monday, March 23 at 2:30 p.m.

“Council is going to be having an emergency council meeting on Monday to review the city’s response plan, as it is ever-emerging,” Cote said. “We are going to be reviewing the budget, and potentially be looking at proposed changes to the budget to address the crisis that we are dealing with here, and looking at reviewing the strategies the city has put in place to address the crisis, with a particular focus on vulnerable populations.”

Cote said council will also consider passing bylaw changes that are required for council to meet electronically, rather than in person.

While the meeting is public, there will be limited seating available to the public because of social distancing. The city strongly advises members of the public who are interested in the meeting to watch it online, as it will be live-streamed on the city’s website.

Given the small amount of space in council chamber, the city is concerned about social distancing regulations and the prohibition of gatherings of more than 50 people.

In recognition of social distancing guidelines, council and staff seating will also be adjusted for the meeting. The meeting will not include an open delegation component.

To watch the meeting online, go to www.newwestcity.ca.

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