Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says the city’s Pandemic Response Committee has been working for the past five weeks to prepare for the COVID-19 crisis and is working with senior health authorities to curb the spread of this virus.
The committee is comprised of Surrey Fire Chief Larry Thomas, City Manager Vince LaLonde and other senior staff.
On Thursday night city hall announced the cancellation of all city-run events with over 250 people until further notice and has instituted an international ban on work-related travel for all city staff.
“As you fully well know the situation is fluid and other measures will be imposed when deemed necessary,” McCallum said Friday, at city hall. “We are in extraordinary times and as a result, extraordinary measures are being taken.”
The public is fortunate, he said, that there is “sound leadership and oversight at all levels” to adapt and respond to this pandemic.
Everyone has a role to play in fighting this, he said, by washing our hands regularly, staying home if we’re sick and “socially distancing” ourselves.
“As someone who has been in public life for as long as I have,” McCallum said, “I have never turned down a handshake, until now.”
“We also have to be mindful to look out for one another, especially our seniors and individuals with underlying health conditions.”
McCallum appealed to residents to stop hoarding toilet paper and other products.
“We have all seen the images and stories of bare shelves, of hand sanitizers and toilet paper due to the people feeling the need to hoard. That’s not helpful, nor is it needed. By all means, purchase what you need for a two week period but stockpiling and hoarding means that someone is going without.”
Organizers of the annual Vaisakhi parade in Newton, which draws about half a million people, have cancelled that April 25 event “until further notice.”
But the annual Cloverdale Rodeo, which is held on the May long weekend, is still on. At least, that’s the plan. This will be revisted after the Easter long weekend, Mike McSorley, general manager of the Cloverdale Rodeo and country fair, told the Now-Leader.
“As of today, we’re moving full-speed ahead with plans but we will re-evaluate after April 14,” he said Friday.
“We’re planning on going ahead, we’ve let all of our suppliers know that that’s the plan,” McSorley said. “We hope everybody is safe and ready to have a party in May.”
The last time they cancelled the Cloverdale Rodeo was on May 14, 1995 because of a Surrey civic workers strike, and it was rescheduled for Sept. 1 to 4. The delay was estimated to cost close to $150,000.
Asked how COVID-19 and related closures will affect regular council meetings and public hearings, McCallum noted council chambers holds 208 people “so we’re sort of underneath the threshold as far as the 250.
“But having said that, we’re going to be monitoring this situation literally on a daily basis, and so it’s a very fluid situation right now – it changes within a day sometimes,” McCallum said. “So I just want to assure everybody we have a team that’s up-and-running, it’s running constantly and we’re working on all these situations on a daily if not hourly basis.”
Asked if he has an idea how many cases of COVID-19 Surrey has, even roughly, McCallum deferred that question to the fire chief. “I’m not aware actually,” the mayor said.
Thomas replied that the B.C. Centre for Disease Control “quit disclosing” the locations “for patient privacy, so we don’t have that.”
Meantime, McCallum said Surrey Memorial Hospital is the “head hospital for all of B.C. for diseases like this, or viruses like this. It was set up an number of years ago as the provincial headquarters to deal with viruses or an emergency like this.
“They have some of the best staff there, literally in Canada, and they’ve researched this,” McCallum said, “And so it’s a few blocks away from us here and we’re very, very confident that they have lots of capacity to handle any type of thing that we have to use the hospital for.”