Last update: 2021 May 10
Updates for British Columbia
As of May 11, everyone age 40 or older, anyone extremely clinically vulnerable, and anyone age 16+ who is pregnant is able to register for vaccination against COVID-19. Registration is available online or by phone (link).
Possible Infection? Use the online self-assessment tool first (link). If you need testing, phone 811 to speak with a public health nurse. DO NOT visit any doctor’s office, walk-in clinic, or hospital emergency room unless you have been specifically instructed to do so by a healthcare professional from that facility. Always call ahead. COVID-19 requires special handling and containment protocols!
Travel Orders (advisory link, original document link): non-essential and recreational travel are both currently prohibited, including certain kinds of travel between health authority regions (map of regions PDF link). Please refer to the linked resources for more information. This order is set to expire 2021 May 25 at midnight unless COVID-19 caseload trends require further extensions.
A 14-day quarantine applies to all persons returning to BC (link). Isolation plans can be submitted electronically via the Travel Screening site (link), or printed and filed manually (link). More broadly, the Canada-US border remains closed to certain kinds of non-essential traffic (link). Flights from India and Pakistan have also been suspended (link).
Provincial Health Orders (link): masks are currently required for all indoor public spaces (link), and gatherings are limited to 10 people in outdoor settings only. Otherwise, everyone is directed to limit contact to a ‘core bubble’ of no more than two people.
COVID-19 Dashboard (link): this interactive map illustrates BC’s COVID-19 caseload data and breaks the information down by regional health authority.
BC Ferries Status (link): masks and social distancing requirements remain in place, and COVID-19 screenings are mandatory for any routes over 30 minutes. Non-essential travel is prohibited. Updated sailing schedules can be found at the main BC Ferries website (link).
Public Transit Status (link for BC Transit, link for TransLink): normal fare collection remains in effect, alongside of reduced passenger capacity and other measures (etiquette guide link). Masks are required to board and ride transit vehicles. Riders may experience pass-ups during busy hours after vehicles reach max capacity. To avoid missing a trip, try to plan two buses ahead of your anticipated boarding time. If traveling with a bicycle, check with your driver on how to proceed. Some drivers are OK with front-only load/entry and exit/unload, whereas others prefer the etiquette guideline for single-direction foot traffic. When in doubt, ask which method they prefer.
Real-time tracking is available on the BC Transit website (link). Open the site, select your local transit system, click NextRide, and pick the route you want. Map lag time (the difference between a vehicle’s physical location and its location on the map) ranges from approximately 5 to 30 seconds.
Provincial COVID-19 Response Plan (link): this outlines the specifics of BC’s broader emergency relief efforts including social planning, reopening the economy, and special access to resources.
Canadian Pandemic Prepping and Resources
As a global emergency, COVID-19 will continue to cause disruptions and supply shocks. Expect product shortages, rationing, and price fluctuations. PPE and other mission-critical items may remain unavailable through your usual distribution channels. The time to update your emergency plan is now.
1. Financial Plan: your top priority should be making sure basic needs are covered, and that there’s at least a 3- to 6‑month buffer in between you and the pandemic in case of job loss. If you can allocate more, do so. If your job is not yet at risk, consult your employer and see what updates they’ve made to their pandemic plan. Once you obtain the resources to accommodate those guidelines, it’s time to focus on household budgeting and savings. The worst time to do anything is after an ROE drops. Build as much financial resilience into your plan as possible.
If you’ve been laid off or had your hours reduced due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for Employment Insurance (link) or the new post-CERB transition benefits (link). Additional programs may be available at the provincial level for BC (link), AB (link), SK (link), MB (link), ON (link), QC (link), NB (link), NS (link), NL (link), PE (link), YT (link), NT (link), and NU (link). Always verify your eligibility and confirm the tax situation before applying.
For Canadian mortgage holders, the CMHC is still allowing deferrals (link) and institution specific initiatives exist at CIBC (link), TD (link), RBC (link), and Scotia (link). Other financial institutions may also have additional options, your best bet is to call around.
A key priority should be minimizing liabilities and pruning down discretionary spending in order to create a savings. If you haven’t already done so, get a TFSA (link) or other specialized account at your financial institution to dump the money into. Next, reduce your liabilities: pay off credit cards, get rid of frivolous monthly subscriptions, and reassess any major assets or student loans you’re paying down.
Last but not least, contact your creditors and find out what their emergency policies look like. Even if you’re doing well and making all your payments on time, it’s good to know what your backup plan looks like in case things take a sour turn. With COVID-19 and the political situation in the US potentially threatening the global financial and real estate markets, we really don’t have a good idea of what the next couple of years might look like, so it’s especially important to have flexibility built into your financial planning.
2. Home Readiness: contact utility providers to re-evaluate your pricing and needs. Off-peak electricity discounts and energy self-assessments can often be helpful. Comparison shop for Internet packages (you’ll be surprised by how much the big ISPs are overcharging). Finish energy-saving repairs, but avoid major renovations unless absolutely necessary. Make sure your home is well maintained and adequately insulated. Last but not least, if you have a septic field or water well, make sure it’s working properly and keep the contact details of at least two service companies on hand at all times. Technicians and trades have become more difficult to access due to the pandemic. Know your pricing and be aware of the local business ecosystem.
Don’t forget to beef up security (link). The disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to changes in crime dynamics, including a spike in property crimes as well as fewer police officers available to respond to calls due to wide-ranging workforce infections in many jurisdictions. Do your part to responsibly address your security needs and prevent crime, it helps our first responders.
3. Supplies: your next goal should be to establish at least a one-month stock of food, water, medicine, and household supplies. It’s best to aim for a three-month stock or better if your situation allows, but anything is better than nothing. The idea is to survive comfortably with zero trips to the grocery store (and zero people leaving the home) for as long as the supplies last. If you’re not sure what to pack, here’s a basic guide for food (link) and here’s one for water (link).
Keep in mind that shelf life varies widely by product, method(s) of preservation employed, and storage conditions (link). Canned goods generally fare well over longer periods of time, as do vacuum-packed dry goods. Do your research before going shopping, and be prepared to tweak some of your planning and purchases as you go. Often times, you’ll encounter options you hadn’t considered when you first started out.
Shelf life resources such as StillTasty (link) and EatByDate (link) are useful for getting a rough idea of product life for meal planning. If in doubt, follow the date that’s printed on the packaging of the products you buy, and remember to conduct regular stock rotation as well as follow the principle of FIFO (first in, first out). The oldest items in your stock should be consumed first, and you should never use anything that’s reached expiry or is showing signs of spoilage.
A final word about pantry prepping: this is one of those skills that takes practice to get right, and the ‘settling-in period’ to get used to this kind of routine is usually a few months. You can make the process easier and reduce accidental waste by keeping checklists of your stocked items and the dates they expire.
And no, you don’t need 600 rolls of toilet paper. Please leave some for the rest of us, and remember that the sourcing is 100% domestic so we’re not in any danger of running out.
4. First Aid: your other mission critical item is a well-stocked first aid kit and the skills required to use it. You can find the BC provincial standardized supply checklist here (link). Don’t forget to seek out appropriate first aid training through your local Red Cross (link) or St. John Ambulance (link).
5. Online Shopping: buying stuff on the Internet has become more prevalent in the wake of COVID-19. One very effective way to manage online purchases is to set up a single low-limit credit card as the payment method for the e‑commerce sites you’re using, then manually pay off the card balances using a bank account from a different financial institution. The benefit is threefold: first, using a credit card instead of a debit card generally provides superior fraud protection; second, keeping your credit card account separate and insulated from your bank account adds an extra level of security in case the credit card account ever gets breached. Third and last, most credit card issuers will offer cashback bonuses, purchase protection, extended warranties, and other features that can be tailored to benefit your buying habits over the long run. Use them.
As with anything credit card related, the usual two caveats apply: never carry a balance past the grace period, and never use automated transactions. There’s much to be said in favour of staying in good standing and keeping manual control of where the money goes.
As for the delivery side of things, COVID-19 has noticeably reshaped our mail service. Masks are mandatory at the post office, parcel traffic is way up, and carriers will likely follow the guidelines of ‘drop, knock, run’ apart from a few specific exceptions (link). A lot of orders, particularly Amazon ones, are being photographed at the destination in order to demonstrate proof of delivery. If you’re just starting out, be aware of this. Likewise, if your home doesn’t have a safe covered area to receive parcels or the entry area is too difficult for carriers to find, consider renting a post office box instead — the peace of mind is worth it.
6. Further Reading: for those who are interested in building out their emergency preparations and equipment, or even if you’re new to all of this, a lot of decent quality, no-nonsense resources can be found over at The Prepared (link).
Pandemic DIY Projects
Sew and No-Sew Mask Patterns (link): instructions for making your own masks. Be sure to follow the enclosed guidelines on material selection, as specific fabrics work better for particulate capture than others.
EveryMask (link), Fix the Mask (link): both of these resources deal with improving the safety profiles of rectangular masks by more effectively sealing the mask to the face using flexible materials and a sturdier nose bridge.
Canada’s Office of the Chief Science Advisor (link): a page listing ongoing national initiatives on handling COVID-19.
BC Centre for Disease Control (link): a page for provincial epidemiology, situation reports, data downloads, and other useful resources.