As public gathering places are shut down and the province orders mandatory social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some North Shore residents are apparently not getting the massage.
Over the sunny weekend, the word COVIDIOT quickly spread on social media as the term for people flouting provincial orders while enjoying a game of pick-up basketball, or gathering beach side.
On Saturday night, West Vancouver police were twice called to disperse a group of young people gathering at the Ambleside basketball courts.
“When police arrived on scene, they cleared out pretty good,” said Const. Nicole Braithwaite, West Vancouver police spokeswoman.
On Monday, the City of Vancouver passed an emergency bylaw allowing officers to issue fines of up to $1,000 for individuals failing to observe physical distancing orders.
In West Vancouver, police and bylaw officers have stepped up patrols of public gathering areas, Braithwaite said, but police will only start issuing fines if requested by the provincial health officer. If anyone spots a group of people larger than 50 people, they should call the non-emergency line, Braithwaite said.
“We’re encouraging everyone to follow orders and recommendations of the public health officer,” she said.
Similarly, North Vancouver RCMP don’t have the capacity or the go ahead to be responding to every small group of people gathered, said Sgt. Peter DeVries, North Vancouver RCMP spokesman.
Since last week, the three North Shore municipalities and both school districts have closed all of their playgrounds, sports facilities, skate parks and picnic areas. The District of North Vancouver has also closed Quarry Rock, Lynn Canyon and Mount Fromme parking lots as they were simply attracting too many people, and BC Parks has closed vehicle access to Mount Seymour and Cypress provincial parks.
For now, Metro Vancouver’s parks remain open with extra staff on site to remind people of the rules. With sunny weather, more people were flocking to places like Capilano River and Lynn Headwaters Regional Parks, Metro CAO Jerry Dobrovolny acknowledged, but he said the regional government will follow the advice of the provincial authorities when it comes to outdoor recreation.
“If [visitors] are not able to follow the rules of the chief medical health officer, we will close the parks, but we’re treating that as a last resort,” he said.
Social distancing, or lack thereof, was a hot topic at Dr. Bonnie Henry’s daily press update Monday.
Henry reiterated that it is OK for folks to go outside, but she specified they should only go with members of their household.
“We don’t want you to do it with your whole neighbourhood,” she said. “We want you to do it with yourself and your family.”
There is a perception that younger people are less impacted by COVID-19, but Henry said there are many people in their 20s and 30s in European ICUs and young people are highly likely to pass the virus on, not knowing they are carrying it.
“They bring it home to their parents and their grandparents, or aunties and the other older people in their lives, or they may have very mild symptoms and bring it into their workplace,” she said. “If you are a health-care worker, that could be a hospital or a long term care home or your patient offices, and that’s where the risk is, of course, of passing it on to people who are more likely to have severe outcomes.”
The North Shore Mountain Bike Association, meanwhile, is asking its members to avoid risky riding in the weeks ahead, even though it can be done a safe distance from others. NSMBA president Cooper Quinn said he doesn’t want to see mountain bikers taking up precious hospital resources thanks to unnecessary falls on the trails.
With files from Jane Seyd and Ben Bengtson.