Local response kicking in to COVID-19 outbreak. THE NEWS – files

Cities, school district readying for COVID-19

Getting inquiries, working with health authorities

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are gearing up in case the COVID-19 spread reaches the state it has in other parts of the world.

Pitt Meadows has added a page to its website on the disease and posted links on its website where people can get more information, noting staff are getting many inquiries.

The city’s also talking to its employees to educate them on how to keep from getting sick, said communications manager Carolyn Baldridge.

Meanwhile, she noted that daily cleaning continues of city facilities, with hand sanitizers and soap dispensers located throughout. Business continuity guidelines are also in place, if needed in the future, Baldridge added.

The city’s website advises people to wash hands with soap and water, cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing (such as coughing into your elbow or using a tissue), and to stay home if sick – noting surgical masks are not recommended as protection.

“Surgical masks are not designed to protect the wearer from becoming sick. They may cause you to touch your face more often, which may be worse than not wearing a mask,” said the website.

Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden has posted links to Fraser Health and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control on his Facebook page.

“Of paramount importance is frequent hand washing with soap and water, not to touch one’s face, and restrict physical contact with others as best as possible,” Morden added Tuesday. People should also call 811 if they are experiencing symptoms.

Morden added that the city has done its “due diligence” in order to be as prepared as possible, under the guidance of health officials.

Read more: Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows school district cancels several Spring Break trips

At Hagen’s Travel and Cruises agency in downtown Maple Ridge, the virus has led to some cancellations, said Deddy Geese.

He experienced first-hand one of those events last week when a trade show he was travelling to in Berlin was abruptly cancelled. He learned about that on the way to the airport.

But he’s seen similar events during the 45 years he’s been in Maple Ridge. Geese has been through the effects of 9-11, the economic meltdown of 2008, swine flu, and SARS.

“It all has come and has gone and granted it (is) trying moments for everybody, especially for the travelling public,” Geese said, adding it is distressing for people.

He advises vacationers to check with their doctors and look at credible government websites such as Global Affairs Canada, the World Health Organization, or the U.S. Centre of Disease Control so people can get accurate information, then get advice from their travel agent.

He said travel agents can’t make decisions for vacationers but can only provide them the “best” information available.

“And just stay away from hysteria. There’s so much misleading information on the ’net. And that’s really the big problem for people.”

Read more: B.C. care providers say masks, medical supplies ‘drying up’ due to COVID-19 concerns

Geese said his clients are more worried about getting stuck in quarantine rather than get sick.

“We just have to make sure that the travelling public has all the facts when making travel decisions and stay away from misinformation,” and to contact a travel agent. Travel providers are also relaxing some of their rules, he added.

“It’s part of the industry,” he added, predicting this virus will take another few months to run its course.

The outbreak in Europe has led to Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District cancelling student trips to Japan and Europe.

Read more: B.C. records first COVID-19 death in Canada as province hits 32 cases

The school district works closely with the province and Fraser Health, communications manager Irena Pochop said Tuesday.

Provincial recommendations outlined in the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) B.C. public health guidance for schools and childcare programs, have been implemented – which include enhanced cleaning and disinfection at all school district sites, Pochop explained.

Parents have been given a summary of these recommendations, Pochop said. Regular updates will be given to families, she added. The school district also sent out a letter Tuesday reagarding spring break travel.

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce hasn’t received any calls from local businesses about the virus, but its three employees were given a notice on how to prepare, said executive director Flori Chaykowski.

“We made it part of our employee package,” Chaykowski added, putting out some information by a human resources firm on what to do if anyone in the office showed symptoms. She advised that other businesses to do the same.

“We recommend that business make their staff aware of what to do.”


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