COVID-19 Update for Members

As many of you know, events are being cancelled, businesses are closing, and BC’s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, is urging people to follow directions regarding hand hygiene, social distancing, and self-quarantine. Given the frequent updates and nature of these precautions, we wanted to let our members know what we are doing on their behalf during these odd and trying times and share some of the precautions we are taking at the Federation.

Government Info & Funding Updates

Yesterday, Minister Simpson hosted a call with the members of the Provincial Roundtable and Dr. Danièle Behn Smith from the office of the Provincial Health Officer to discuss the impact of COVID-19. What follows is the information discussed on that call.

We know many of you are wondering whether or not you should be closing your programs and are weighing the risks of remaining open against the benefits of continuing to serve your clients—who would otherwise lose valuable supports at a time when everyone is feeling particularly stressed and vulnerable. We also know the changing nature of the information being shared makes it especially hard to know what to do.

At this point, what we have heard from the Office of Provincial Health is that as long as the following conditions are adhered to, they are not recommending that community services be closed.

> Groups of people must remain smaller than 50 persons
> Groups of people must be able to maintain the recommended social distancing
> Enhanced disinfecting of surfaces, particularly “high touch” surfaces
> Frequent hand washing takes place and people avoid touching their face
> Decreased opportunities for cross-group interaction

Adhering to these conditions may require some changes in how services are delivered (e.g., more outside time, not travelling on transit, bringing groups together in smaller numbers).

Some organizations are struggling to access supplies like masks and eye shields. We have been advocating that your funding ministries follow the lead of BC Housing and work with contracted agencies to manage the inventory of supplies and identify organizations needing assistance in obtaining them. At the same time, the Provincial Health Office has reiterated that wearing masks is only recommended for individuals who are sick or displaying symptoms. Wearing masks when you are not sick actually increases your risk because adjusting the mask actually causes people to touch their faces more than they otherwise would.

We know that your first priority is the health and well-being of your staff and clients. But we are also aware of the financial implications of managing this kind of high-stress, ever-changing situation—particularly as it relates to staffing costs and reduced program participation.

We hope to have more information and directions from the BC’s Provincial Health Officer, specifically for community service providers, later today. CLBC is encouraging community service organizations to contact their regional directors to flag any emerging issues. We are working to get more information from MCFD and are trying to arrange a call for residential service providers this week. We are also seeking information and directions for childcare and early years/family programs. We will pass on what we learn when we learn it.

Training Postponed

The Federation’s regional cultural safety training sessions planned throughout March and April have been postponed. Registered participants will be receiving emails from Sherry Sinclair, The Federation’s Director of Programs and Services, this week with more information.

Conference Accommodations

As of this week, The Federation’s June Conference and Annual General Meeting in Penticton is scheduled as planned. We will be evaluating the situation week by week and will let members know as soon as possible if those plans change.

In the meantime, for those of you hoping to come if the event goes ahead, you can reserve your rooms at the Penticton Lakeside Resort now without worry. The Federation’s room block deadline is April 16, 2020. If needed, you can cancel your reservation up to seven days before your stay. Their cancellation policy (#16) can be viewed here. We will keep you updated if our plans for this event change.

Federation Member Resources

Some Federation members have generously offered to share their relevant policies with other members. These have been posted on the Members section of The Federation website. Login information was been shared with your organization’s Federation representative last Thursday. The Federation has also shared our work from home policy here. These resources are offered to provide ideas and information only—they may not work for your organization depending on the services you offer, your union status, or other factors.

In light of the current situation, The Federation is also hosting a weekly webinar during March: Coronavirus COVID-19 and Your Organization. Rebecca and Sherry will host the space for members to discuss what your organizations are doing and to share your ideas with each other.

> Thursday March 19 @ 10:00-11:00 AM
> Thursday March 26 @ 10:00-11:00 AM

No registration is needed. Participation information has been emailed to Federation representatives—feel free to forward it to your colleagues.

Other Information & Resources

Health officials widely agree the most important thing you can do to prevent coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. Practice social distancing as much as possible to protect your friends, family, coworkers, and community.

If you feel sick, isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested before contacting your local public health authority.

> Visualizing “social distancing” and what “flattening the curve” means.
> Johns Hopkins University Global COVID-19 Dashboard.
> BC Centre for Disease Control—COVID 19 Website and Common Questions.
> Government of Canada COVID-19 website.
> CBC Local COVID-19 Updates Page—advisories, updates, and cancellations.
> CMHA resources on managing stress and anxiety and how to talk to children about public health emergencies.
> CBC Podcast on the science behind the public health directions.
> CSSEA’s COVID-19 Update webpage.

The Federation staff team is cancelling all in-person meetings and re-scheduling virtual meetings wherever possible to limit unnecessary contact. We are cancelling staff travel and our upcoming planning day and postponing upcoming training events.

If you have any questions, concerns, or other resources to share with members, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are doing our very best to keep members informed and supported as things unfold over the coming weeks.

Rick FitzZaland
Executive Director