The legislature was adjourned this week to accommodate the Canada Day statutory holiday. MLAs will return to regular legislative business – either in person or on Zoom – on Monday, July 6, 2020.
New visitor regulations for long-term care facilities
On Tuesday, Dr. Bonnie Henry made an emotional, long-awaited announcement to open long-term care facilities to visitors, with a number of conditions.
“I know that for many seniors in long-term care the pain has been immense,” Dr. Henry said. “You have suffered more than others."
Only one person will be able to visit each long-term care resident. There are a number of other rules that come with expanded visitation.
The resident’s facility must not be in an outbreak. Meetings must be booked in advance, and all visitors will be screened by dedicated staff before entering the facility. There will be both indoor and outdoor spaces available for meeting. Visitors must also wear a mask throughout the length of the visit.
Visits are able to begin as soon as the facility has the safety precautions and staff in place – a process which would take a week to 10 days in some cases, Dr. Henry said.
The provincial government is funding long-term care facilities to hire up to three extra full-time employees for infection control and visitation management for one year – at a total cost of $160 million. The province is also providing $26.5 million for facilities to address the extra costs they incurred between March 31 and June 30, 2020.
Dr. Henry and Minister Dix hope to ease the single-visitor rule in August, depending on how the next few weeks go.
“We are going to start slowly, and, as we expect things will progress well, we will expand these activities, as we have done with every other activity. And we will be monitoring this on an ongoing basis to ensure that we can expand access as soon as it is safe to do so,” Henry said.
In Tuesday’s media conference, Minister Dix also confirmed that the single site order keeping long-term care employees working at only one facility will continue.
U.S. travellers coming to B.C. despite non-essential travel regulations
Premier Horgan says he’s frustrated to hear that U.S. residents are vacationing in B.C. when the border is closed to non-essential travel. American travellers are reportedly taking advantage of a loophole which allows them to enter the province by saying they’re en route to Alaska.
Horgan said he’s heard reports of U.S. license plates being spotted in parts of the province that are very, very far off the route to Alaska, including the Gulf Islands and Northern Vancouver Island.
“We're concerned about this phenomenon, and we're hearing about it in communities right across the province,” the premier said. “It's so critically important to British Columbia — we have worked very, very hard to get here ... and we do not want to throw that away for people who want to say they're going somewhere and do something else.”
Horgan told reporters he’s raised these concerns with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Non-essential travellers from the U.S. are technically banned from entering Canada until July 21. Premier Horgan believes the U.S. border should remain closed beyond this date, “until the United States demonstrates that they have a handle on this pandemic.”
Province announces $5-million program for unemployed youth to find work
The province has announced a new $5-million program for unemployed youth to find work during the pandemic.
The WorkBC program – the
Youth Community Partnership Program
– offers funding to local governments, not-for-profit community and environmental organizations, employer associations, chambers of commerce and Indigenous communities to hire youth to complete a community-service project of their choosing. The province offered examples like trail building, beach clean-up or invasive species removal, upgrading local parks, or working for a local charity.
Youth between the ages of 15-29 are eligible for the program. Applicants (local governments, not-for-profit, etc.) can receive grants of up to $10,000 per youth for projects running up to 16 weeks. The youth then receive a training stipend of up to $2,000 per four-week period (to a maximum of $8,000) for work between June and October 31.
This program aims to help a demographic whose employment prospects have been particularly hurt by COVID-19. The unemployment rate among youth was 28.9% as of June 5, 2020.