Mayor Henry Braun speaks last year at the annual Mayor’s Breakfast event at Tradex. This year’s Mayor’s Breakfast won’t be happening. File photo

Abbotsford mayor: A ‘tsunami’ is coming so help your neighbours, and break chain of transmission

Mayor calls for ‘drastic action’ to stem spread of COVID-19

Abbotsford’s residents should prepare for a “tsunami” to wash over the region as COVID-19 spreads across North America, Mayor Henry Braun says.

The spread of the novel coronavirus will upend life across the city, and requires residents to look out for one another, Braun said. And he said some people need to start taking the situation much more seriously.

“We’re just at the beginning of this exponential curve that’s about to land on us in the next week or two,” Braun said. “I am very concerned about the safety of our residents and the community at large.”

Braun has been following the spread of COVID-19 for months, in part because a family member with a health issue was in Europe.

“I’ve had a few sleepless nights,” he said. “This is serious. My concern is we have too many people across this country who are not taking this seriously and the time for drastic action, I think is now.”

Braun suggested that even allowing gatherings of 50 people – the current limit – may be too lenient. Ten may be more appropriate, he suggested. The open Sumas border crossing is also of concern, he said, given the “out of hand” situation in Washington.

British Columbia, Braun said, has done a “fantastic job” in its response. But for the virus to be contained, Braun said residents and employers need to listen to the words of Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.

“We need to listen to what they have to say. They’re not being alarmist. They’re telling us the truth,” he said. “Wash your hands like you’ve never washed before, because soap and water does more than hand sanitizers.”

Still he doesn’t expect that to spare B.C. from having to confront the danger of COVID-19.

RELATED: B.C. to suspend K-12 schools due to COVID-19

RELATED: COVID-19 website and assessment centre established in Abbotsford

In his five-plus years as mayor, Braun and his council have spoken repeatedly about the need to take a process-oriented approach and spend time to collect information before making a decsion.

That’s just not possible when it comes to COVID-19, with World Health Organization officials speaking of the importance of acting quickly and decisively.

“We’re going to make the odd mistake, but it’s better to make a decision and move than to sit there and try to get perfect information,” Braun said Tuesday.

Discussions are taking place at city hall about a series of issues. Some staff may be able to work from home, but there are technological challenges to resolve. The city must find a way to provide essential services, while dealing with increased staff absences. And council is considering how it might meet remotely.

“It’s all hands on deck and together as a community … we have to break the chain of transmission.”

Braun encouraged restaurants and businessowners to consider closing before they are forced to do so.

“I think businesses need to start thinking about that … because if some of us are self isolation, isolating, and others aren’t, the spread will continue.”

But he also noted that many businesses may not think they can afford to do so.

Federal and provincial politicians are discussing how to respond to the economic shockwaves caused by the spread of COVID-19.

Braun said that while he sympathizes with business owners, “I think we have to look after the employees first.”

“I don’t want to see aid packages going to businesses first and leaving people vulnerable … I’ve been told many times there are 4,000 people who are one paycheque away from being homeless in this city. They can’t afford to be off work for one day, nevermind two weeks.”

The closures, though are necessary, he said, to prevent a situation like that in Italy, where doctors must decide who gets a ventilator and who doesn’t.

“There is no health system in any country in this world that can handle this if this if this spikes up, which is why we want to flatten out this curve, spread it out over time,” he said. “Otherwise we’re going to burn our doctors and nurses out because they can’t handle what’s about to come.”

In addition to the physical hazards posed by COVID-19, recent weeks – and the months to come – will take a toll on many residents mental health.

Braun says that he has turned to his faith for strength. But in general, he suggested residents get outside if they can.

“You have to take a deep breath, go for a walk,” he said. “Go to Mill Lake, walk around, look at the beauty that surrounds us. Sing a song – whatever makes you lift your spirit. For some people that will be praying…”

“For people who have kids, take them out on Sumas Mountain on the trails. You’re not going to get this walking on those trails, touching a tree.”

Braun also stressed that residents should check up on neighbours, particularly the elderly, as well as friends and family who may also have mental health challenges.

“We are just at the beginning edge of a whole lot of things that our world is about to change in a way that we haven’t seen in 100 years,” Braun said. “We as a community have to look out for one another. I gain my strength from my neighbour’s strength. And I think that’s something we’re going to do a lot of in the next little while.”

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Goose in Abbotsford rescued after legs wrapped up in fishing line

Wildlife centre operator says people need to be more careful

COLUMN: The other graph that shows B.C. can beat COVID-19

Is the curve being flattened? data on hospitalizations provides a crucial answer.

Van der Gulik, McLaren named to Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame

Hockey pro, softball umpire headlining the 2020 class, which will now be celebrated on Sept. 26

VIDEO: Abbotsford child celebrates seventh birthday with ‘car parade’

Friends and family surprise seven-year-old Gina Brar on April 2 birthday

Abbotsford Police use gold-wrapped BMW for latest anti-gang campaign

Program aims to pass on message that ‘All That Glitters is Not Gold’

VIDEO: How doctors in Canada will decide who lives and dies if pandemic worsens

Officials in several provinces have been developing guides so that doctors don’t feel alone

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Black Press Media ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

Vancouver man, 21, charged after mother found dead in Squamish home

Ryan Grantham, 21, has been charged with second-degree murder

Don’t stop going to the doctor, just do it virtually: B.C. association

Doctors encourage patients to access telephone, online visits

Surrey MLA Jinny Sims cleared of criminal wrongdoing

She resigned her cabinet post during RCMP investigation

Most Read