New Westminster takes action in response to changing public health orders

The City of New Westminster is revising up some of its practices in response to changes to public health orders.

In response to the changes announced Thursday by B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, masks are no longer required in indoor settings as of 12:01 a.m. on Friday, March 11.

Blair Fryer, the city’s manager of economic development and communications, said masks will still be required for all indoor, seated, instructor-led camps and classes for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students until the end of New Westminster school district’s spring break on Sunday, March, 27.

Due to “extensive” exhibition pre-bookings, the New Media Gallery will also continue to require masks.

“We understand that everyone’s comfort level is different and ask that, as a community, we remain respectful of each other as people proceed at their own pace,” Fryer said. “Our cleaning processes for frequently touched surfaces have not changed. We will continue to carry out our routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces at all city facilities, as we have done throughout the pandemic. We will continue to monitor public health recommendations and adjust our COVID-19 measures and protocols accordingly, and with the safety and wellbeing of our community and staff in mind.”

Members of the public, as well as city employees, are welcome to continue wearing a mask if they choose.

Changes are coming to the requirements regarding the B.C. Vaccine Card. Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, April, 8, British Columbians will no longer be required to show their proof of vaccination in order to enter places like gyms and sporting events or to dine in restaurants.

Until that time, the City of New Westminster still requires people to show proof they’ve had two doses of a vaccine for participation in some recreational activities:

*Participants (12 years and up) of multigenerational services such as public skating, group fitness classes and fitness centres.

*Spectators (12 years and up) of sports and recreation programs and services.

*Parents and guardians (19 years and older) assisting, watching or participating in parks and Recreation services for children and youth, including programs requiring parent participation.

*Members of the public (22 years and up) entering a recreation facility for any reason.

Proof of vaccination is not required for children aged 0 to 12 years of age, parents in parenting education programs or breast feeding programs or people aged 12 to 21 years who are participating in child and youth sport and recreational programs, such as lessons, art classes, and parent and tot programs.

What’s happening at city facilities?

City facilities – from Century House to Queensborough Community Centre – are no longer limiting the number of occupants allowed in venues and programs. 

“As per the previous public health orders, all areas are at pre-COVID-19 occupancy levels,” Fryer said. “Capacity levels for programs and classes will be structured based on staffing ratios and the health and safety of patrons and staff, as they were pre-COVID.”

According to Fryer, pre-registration will continue to be an option for registered drop-in programs in which staffing capacities and ratios are required, such as fitness, outdoor pools and public skating.

“We want participants to continue to have the means to pre-book and reserve space in some of their favourite programs,” he said. “Participants will be able to drop-in for these programs as well – space permitting – at sites where customer service agents are present.”

Because the exhibitions at the New Media Gallery in Anvil Centre are already heavily pre-booked, their booking system will remain in place on their website.

“Their bookings are based upon a capacity of six entries to the gallery per hour, and masks are required,” Fryer said. “New Media Gallery drop-ins will depend on capacity. The New Westminster Museum and Irving House will no longer require pre-bookings for visitation.”

* Any staff currently working remotely will be returning to a 60% on-site working requirement. This applies to employees in position where remote work is possible.

*Some city programs will continue to be held virtually. The city will continue to look for options to provide virtual programming and offer virtual means to connect alongside in-person meetings and programs.

* City council meetings and public hearings will continue to be held in a hybrid format, which will allow residents to attend in-person or participate virtually. 

“Zoom has allowed people greater access to the democratic process, particularly public hearings, and we want to continue to offer residents options to participate,” Fryer said.

Pandemic learnings

March 11 marked the two-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic.

“Despite numerous challenges and changes we’ve faced throughout the pandemic, we’ve been amazed and heartened by how our community responded and worked together over the past two years,” Fryer said. “As a large organization, it was challenging to pivot and adapt to new ways of providing services while adhering to public health orders to keep staff and the community safe. However, it also provided us with opportunities to implement new services and program options and many of these will continue such as virtual council meetings, virtual events and programs, along with an increase in online service offerings.”

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus
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