The largest municipality in Atlantic Canada is urging its residents to stay home and stay safe during the upcoming long weekend as Canada continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We simply must stay the course,” said Mayor Mike Savage of the Halifax Regional Municipality on Wednesday at a municipal coronavirus update.
He said that many — including himself — would like to celebrate the holidays of Easter or Passover with their family and friends but cannot as a result of physical-distancing measures.
“This weekend will be different because it must be… But we can find new ways to celebrate our faith,” said Savage.
He pleaded with the municipality’s more than 430,000 residents to respect the state of emergency declared by the province of Nova Scotia and its chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, on March 22.
Tickets will continue to be issued
The mayor also reminded citizens that parks, playgrounds, sports fields and trails are closed to comply with that order.
“Trails that are not part of a park can be used, but only if you can walk there and observe social distancing,” Savage said.
The municipality’s chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé said that police and bylaw officers will continue to enforce social-distancing guidelines in order to protect the health of residents.
Halifax’s police force announced on Monday that it had issued 47 COVID-19-related tickets and responded to 698 COVID-19 calls since the state of emergency on March 22.
Fines for the tickets range from $697.50 to $7,500.
Savage echoed a call from Halifax Water last week to avoid flushing “disposable wipes” and plastic gloves down the toilet.
“For heaven’s sake stop flushing things down the toilet that don’t belong there,” said Savage on Wednesday.
“Flushable” wipes are not actually meant to be flushed down the toilet and don’t break down like toilet paper does. As a result, they can cause messy clogs in the municipality’s sewer system.
Dubé said the municipality’s workers for their efforts during the pandemic and urged residents to sign up for HFXalert, the municipality’s opt-in alert service.
He said there have been no service changes since the municipality’s latest update on March 31.
Dubé said that the municipality is currently losing approximately $5 million in revenue as it forgoes parking fees and municipal transit fees.
“That is not a sustainable model,” he said.
Municipal staff are set to provide a rehashed budget in May and Dubé said that they are exploring the possibility of suspending programs.
There is no risk to the municipality’s finances but Dubé said that they do need cashflow, urging all those who can pay their property taxes to do so.
At last week’s meeting of Halifax Regional Counci, Deputy Mayor Lisa Blackburn announced her intention to request a property tax deferral from April 30 to June 1.
“It’s critical that the province supports us in our tax-deferral program,” said Dubé. “This requires team effort.”
The municipality’s CAO said that tough choices may need to be made but said he is not prepared to discuss any decisions regarding staffing at this time.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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