John Horgan (Canadian Press files)

John Horgan (Canadian Press files)

‘We’re not hiding anything,’ Horgan says of COVID-19 data

Local mayors jointly ask premier for ‘more detailed local COVID-19 data’

The provincial government has no plans to impose any lockdown measures specific to Surrey if COVID-19 cases continue to climb here because that kind of decision is the provincial health officer’s to make.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix described Surrey as “ground zero” for COVID-19 cases in B.C. Dix told a Zoom meeting hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade that of the province’s more than 6,000 active cases on Tuesday, roughly 75 per cent were in the Fraser Health region “with the largest share of those in Surrey.”

On Wednesday we asked if the government is contemplating special measures for Surrey, and Jen Holmwood, Premier Horgan’s deputy communications director and press secretary, furnished the Now-Leader with this response via email: “The BC Government doesn’t make decisions on “lockdowns”. Those are determined by the PHO.”

The email also noted that “Mayors have the authority to mandate mask wearing in facilities they operate or own, but not outside of that.”

READ ALSO: Horgan says return to lockdown measures possible if COVID-19 cases spike in B.C.

READ ALSO: Surrey ‘ground zero’ for COVID-19 but has seen less than half of B.C. deaths: Dix

READ ALSO: B.C. premier calls for national COVID-19 travel restrictions

Meantime, the mayors of Surrey, Delta, White Rock, the City of Langley and Township of Langley on Nov. 16 sent a joint letter to Horgan requesting that the provincial government release to them community-specific COVID-19 data.

“A better understanding of community transmission levels will help us make informed decisions regarding our facilities and the associated safety plans,” their letter reads, in part. “More detailed local COVID-19 data will also guide our decision making and resource allocation processes while working with local businesses and community organizations as they work to stay safe, open and economically viable. This data would also allow us to tailor our messaging, implement preventative measures, focus enforcement and work with the Fraser Health Authority on any appropriate measures.”

Horgan’s response to this, on a teleconference call with reporters on Wednesday, was that he welcomes “interventions and support from local government leaders and we will be reaching out to them to ensure that they will have all of the information they need to spread the message in their community. COVID is everywhere, it’s everywhere, and we need to adapt our behaviours to that simple truth. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Delta, or if you’re in Langley, or if you’re in Chilliwack, COVID is in the community so you need to act accordingly.”

“My message to the mayors is the same as to the citizens in Fraser Health,” Horgan said. “You need to amend your behavior, you need to reduce your social gatherings, you need to focus on staying distant from people you don’t know, and if you can’t do so, you must wear a mask, you should wear a mask.

“Suffice it to say that the data is fairly clear – COVID is everywhere in British Columbia. It is acute right now in Fraser Health, the numbers are there, unacceptably high and have been for the past two and a half weeks, so I say to the mayors and I say to the people of Fraser Health, we need to work together to amend our behaviour, to reduce the clusters and these clusters are coming from social gatherings, they’re not coming from workplaces.”

He rejected the idea his government is hiding information from the public.

“We’re not hiding anything,” he said. “First and foremost, we do not want to stigmatize individuals, we do not want to stigmatize communities or neighbourhoods. We want everyone to understand that we are all at risk.”

Horgan said his new cabinet will be sworn in “virtually” on Thursday, Nov. 26, and the government caucus on Tuesday, Nov. 24. He said British Columbians can expect a “short session” to begin on Dec. 7 with a “brief throne speech talking about, of course, the fundamental issues of how do we as a community, how do we as a province, address the challenges of COVID-19.”

The teleconference ended with the Now-Leader not being afforded a chance to directly ask Horgan a question.

– file by Amy Reid



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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