Addressing the community of Hope publicly Monday evening, Mayor Peter Robb stressed the need for residents to remain calm amid a pandemic that has seen 150 cases of COVID-19 in the Fraser Health region.
Acknowledging that the community is facing “unprecedented times,” Robb said it is time everyone take the pandemic seriously. “It is important to stay calm. We need to do this together as a community,” he said.
Speaking at the district’s last council meeting until further notice, Robb thanked district staffers for helping to implement the district’s COVID-19 plan while facing a reality changing by the hour at times. He did not refer to specifics of the plan, however the district has in the past week closed its public washrooms and in-person services at city hall. As of Monday, playgrounds at Memorial Park and Kawkawa Lake were also closed by the district, as was the Kawkawa Lake boat launch.
“It is so important that we follow the federal, provincial and local health authorities’ recommendations on self-isolating, social distancing and hand washing. I can’t say that enough,” he said, referring residents to the District of Hope website and the Fraser Health website. Robb added that provincial government updates are coming and would be shared by the district.
Robb said the community does not have the authority to shut down highways, a question he said he has been asked a lot over the past few days, adding “that direction would have to come from the province.” With four major highways running through the district, this makes it unavoidable for non-residents to visit local gas stations and stores.
The district is still undertaking essential services, while working to minimize risks to staff. “Please be patient,” he urged.
Some welcome news came from the mayor for homeowners in the district – they are now working with the province to allow for “deferrals in municipal taxes and utility payments,” he said.
It looks unlikely that Hope would declare a local state of emergency, such as the down valley village of Harrison Hot Springs’ mayor has done. Robb said with a provincial state of emergency in place, the province would be suspending any such local declarations to allow for a unified approach across the province.
Robb spoke of the impact COVID-19 is having on his family – with two children who are frontline workers, in firefighting and nursing. “As a parent, I am deeply concerned about their well-being during this difficult time, however, I am also profoundly grateful that they like so many others are putting themselves on the frontlines to keep all of us safe,” he said.
Robb thanked all essential service workers, including healthcare workers, grocery workers and others working during “trying times.”
Robb urged people, non-profits and service clubs to reach out to those in need, stressing that social distancing “does not mean social isolation. We are a caring community, in which every life matters.”
More to follow.