Vernon city councillors ensured they followed social-distancing regulations outlined by the province during its regular scheduled meeting on March 23, 2020. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

Local states of emergency to be lifted amid provincewide declaration: Vernon mayor

Provincial emergency declaration to create ‘seamless’ response to COVID-19 pandemic, mayor says

All localized emergency declarations will be lifted to allow for a “seamless” provincewide state of emergency, Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming said.

In a phone meeting with Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth March 23, the mayor said one provincial state of emergency will ensure the COVID-19 pandemic will be dealt with effectively and consistently with one set of orders put in place by the provincial government.

“They made it very clear they don’t want a mix of different jurisdictions doing different activities,” Mayor Cumming said.

Instead, a provincial state of emergency will ensure directions outlined by Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the B.C. government are being implemented.

“Those orders will give us a consistent, across-the-board, seamless system across the province,” he said, underscoring these are orders, not recommendations.

Mayor Cumming informed councillors of the phone call during the last regular scheduled meeting of council amid the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation. All future meetings have been postponed until further notice.

The mayor said updates regarding the provincial state of emergency are to be released within 24 or 48 hours.

With a provincial state of emergency, Mayor Cumming said the City of Vernon would be enlisted with methods to ensure the province’s orders are being enforced.

“We’re going to get some pretty clear capabilities to do some policing on this,” Mayor Cumming said.

“Let’s say we have a restaurant that’s not closing, bylaw would be able to give them a warning,” he said as an example, and a next step would follow if that warning was not addressed.

The province declared a provincial state of emergency March 18 based on the recommendations of the public health and emergency management officials.

A public health emergency was declared on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Declaring a state of emergency is an important measure to support our provincial health officer and minister of health in swift and powerful response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Minister Farnworth said in a statement on March 18.

“We are working with partners across government and industry to co-ordinate emergency response efforts, and we won’t hesitate to use the tools available to us to keep people safe.”

A provincewide state of emergency could also see the B.C. government take over transportation of food products in case of a food shortage to provide all British Columbians with access to food and medicine, Mayor Cumming said.

READ MORE: B.C. announces $5 billion financial relief for COVID-19 pandemic

READ MORE: Vernon woman pens own obituary


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