Oak Bay implements social distancing measures, recommends watching council from home

Social distancing measures implemented to combat flu virus

Oak Bay is encouraging people to write in their feedback for council meetings and watch the live webcasts online rather than visit in-house as a measure of social distancing. Note the chairs have been reduced in council chambers and (Kevin Murdoch Photo)

Oak Bay is encouraging people to write in their feedback for council meetings and watch the live webcasts online rather than visit in-house as a measure of social distancing. Note the chairs have been reduced in council chambers and (Kevin Murdoch Photo)

Social distancing as a precautionary measure is trending and for good reason.

COVID-19 is a proven killer for older adults with pre-existing health concerns and it’s spreading rapidly.

But what exactly is social distancing, and can it work?

Evidence suggests it can, and in a town such as Oak Bay, where the median age is 52.4 versus the CRD’s median age of 44.8, the time to act is now.

On Wednesday, Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch took to social media to share some of the measures taken at municipal hall. Among other measures, such as increased handwashing and disinfecting of public areas, staff also reduced the number of chairs in council chambers, moving them far apart from each other.

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“I wanted to provide a reminder to those who wish to engage with Oak Bay council while COVID-19 is a threat,” Murdoch said. “The public are welcome to attend meetings, but after ‘social distancing’ our gallery chairs, there is limited seating available.”

The public is invited to interact with council through a number of remote channels, in particular by emailing obcouncil@oakbay.ca and to watch the council live stream online through oakbay.ca/municipal-hall/meetings-minutes/council-webcasts.

“Council will read and consider correspondence on the topics under discussion, just as much as a verbal statement in chambers,” Murdoch said. “All agenda items and attached reports are posted online at the same time council receive them, typically 3-5 days ahead of the next meeting.”

The move in Oak Bay follows similar measures in Saanich where there has been an emphasis on personal hygiene practices and guidelines for safe coughing and sneezing at the staff level, said spokesperson Megan Catalano.

“We are also reviewing and adjusting our cleaning protocols in public facilities,” Catalano said. “And First responders are also taking precautions by using protective equipment and working closely with BC Emergency Health Services and Island Health.”

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Washington State made a bold move Wednesday morning by effectively cancelling the Seattle Mariners’ 2020 opening day by prohibiting gatherings of 250 people or more in the King, Pierce and Snohomish counties (which contain the greater Seattle metro area) related to social, spiritual, and recreational gatherings until midnight on March 31.

Urged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention released the early results of a study titled, Nonpharmaceutical Measures for Pandemic Influenza in Nonhealthcare Settings—Social Distancing Measures, that was due out in May.

The study looked at social distancing and crowd avoidance in several ways, isolation, quarantine, school and workplace closures. For the most part it found the specific measures too difficult to study, especially contact tracing, but it also said that an approach with the combined interventions of social distancing are beneficial. Timely implementation and social compliance are key.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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