This page is currently under construction and will be updated on a regular basis once it has been completed.
Updates for British Columbia
Feeling Ill? Are You Infected? Please visit this page (link) for BC’s COVID-19 self-assessment tool. If you meet the criteria for further assistance, phone 811 to speak with a public health nurse. They will guide you through your next steps, including booking any swabs or blood tests. DO NOT visit your family doctor’s office, any walk-in clinics, or any hospital’s emergency room unless you have been specifically directed to do so by a healthcare professional from that facility. Always call ahead when setting up testing, as COVID-19 requires special handling and containment. Do not go out in public without wearing a mask.
International Travellers: if you go outside of BC, you must complete a 14-day isolation upon returning (link). You can submit an isolation plan online via the BC Travel Screening website (link), or via the PDF form (link).
Vulnerable Populations: this page (link) contains information for priority populations whose well-being is at greater risk from the novel coronavirus.
Regional Case Loads: you can view BC’s COVID-19 pandemic page here (link) including CSV files for data export, and you can also see the graphical dashboard here (link) for regional information. The dashboard reflects the real-time numbers of all individuals reported, hospitalized, and recovered.
Provincial COVID-19 Plan: the BC Response Plan page (link) contains details on BC’s broader response including social planning, financial assistance, and reopening the economy.
Ferry Access: you can view the ongoing COVID-19 action plan at BC Ferries’ travel advisory page (link). There is a gradual reintroduction of more frequent sailings underway; there aren’t as many trips as pre-pandemic service levels permitted, but conditions have improved considerably since April. Per the requirements of Transport Canada, face coverings, physical distancing, and passenger screenings are currently in effect.
Current sailing schedules are available via the BC Ferries website (link). I’ve linked the mobile version for quicker access.
City Transit: in accordance with the BC Transit measures (link), systems are now performing normal fare collection with reduced passenger capacity on buses and plastic shields in place to protect drivers. Social distancing and face masks are still advised. Reduced vehicle capacity is still in effect and riders may experience pass-ups during busy hours if buses have reached capacity. To avoid missing a trip, it’s best to plan two buses ahead of the anticipated boarding time. Night runs are still relatively quiet.
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. On mobile devices, it’s recommended that you bookmark the site via your home screen for faster access (I recommend this). Tracking lag time (the difference between a vehicle’s physical location and its location on the online map) typically ranges between 5 and 30 seconds.
Please note that during emergencies, as we saw during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, apps and phone-based services may break. Most operators are still using the schedules seen in the last published version of their local Rider’s Guide. In most areas, you can download the Guide in PDF format from the BC Transit site, under Schedules and Maps.
Specific to Victoria and the CRD, the region’s Guide was de-listed from the BC Transit website during the spring of 2020, however route times from the last published edition still appear to be in force. It’s worth holding onto the file if you still have a copy. (As someone who has one, I’ll post updates about this as things evolve.)
Canadian Pandemic Prepping and Resources
As a global emergency, COVID-19 will continue to cause national and international supply chain shocks. It’s time to get ready for more product shortages, rationing, and price fluctuations. PPE and other mission-critical items might be unavailable through your regular channels for an extended period of time, ranging from a few weeks to a few years. Major disruptions due to infection controls and public health orders will continue to affect all areas of our communities and lifestyles. The time to make an emergency plan is now. Only by planning ahead of the curve can we more effectively flatten the curve.
1. Financial Health: your top priority should be assuring income stability. If your job is not yet at risk, speak with your employer and find out what their contingency plans would be if work-from-home or other disruptive measures are required at a later date. Make sure you obtain the necessary tools and resources as soon as possible so you have the capacity to meet those guidelines. The worst time to shop for anything is after the ROE slip drops. Get yourself on solid ground ahead of time.
If you’ve been laid off or had your hours reduced due to COVID-19, you can apply for Canada’s CERB via the CRA (link) as this process is currently more streamlined than the EI pathway. Additional benefits 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 before applying, and ensure you put aside at least 20% of monies issued, as these benefits are taxable by the CRA. Furthermore, be aware that these are merely income replacement options for workers, they’re not free money or universal benefits.
For mortgage holders in peril, a national deferral program is available in Canada via the CMHC (link) and institution-specific initiatives through CIBC (link), TD (link), RBC (link), and Scotia (link). There may also be options at smaller financial institutions; your best bet is to call around.
Minimize obligations and prune down discretionary spending in order to start putting money into a personal emergency fund. If it’s ‘fun money’ then it’s best saved or used to eliminate debt. Pay off your credit cards, restructure spending to avoid carrying a monthly balance, and thoroughly assess any long-term debts you have (vehicle loans, home mortgages, student loans).
No matter what your situation looks like, contact creditors and learn their contingency plans for COVID-19. Even if you’re doing fine and making all of your payments on time, it’s good to have the information in case circumstances change. You don’t want to be stuck doing this research in the middle of a job loss induced panic. Be ready for a worst case scenario, even if it doesn’t come to pass.
2. Home Readiness: contact utility service providers and make sure you’re getting the best value for your current and future needs. Off-peak electricity discounts and energy self-assessments can be particularly helpful. Finish any energy-saving repairs you may have been putting off, but avoid any major renovations that aren’t needed for structural safety. If you have a septic field or water well, make sure it’s running smoothly. Technicians and tradespeople have become significantly more difficult to access as a result of COVID-19, and this could worsen in the next wave of the pandemic. Call around and learn your service providers’ COVID-19 plans. Keep this information in an accessible place.
This is also a good time to re-evaluate monthly subscriptions: a 25-megabit Internet connection is more than enough for browsing and streaming, cable TV is a luxury if not also a bit of an anachronism these days, and that gym membership you haven’t used in three months should definitely be cancelled. Save money where there’s an opportunity to save it! Don’t forget to call your phone provider and explore options to reduce costs. You can save hundreds of dollars per year by pruning some plans to the basics, and as long as you’ve ensured you’re not being pulled into a contract that makes you pay more later, all of these savings add up quickly and can be diverted to your emergency fund. As before, don’t touch the money once it’s been saved.
Also, don’t forget to beef up security on the homefront (link). The disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to major changes in crime dynamics, including a spike in property crimes as well as fewer police officers available to respond due to workforce infections. Preventing property crime helps our first responders.
3. A Supply Stash: grocery store buying habits should be your next target, as significant changes can help you assure food stability and money savings during temporary shortages and price spikes. Keep at least a one-month stock of food, baking products, canned/dry goods, and household supplies/cleaners on hand at all times, and most importantly, make these preparations as far in advance as possible. Don’t let yourself get burned by panic purchasing or bandwagon trends.
Ideally, you should be sufficiently prepared that your household can survive an entire month without anyone leaving the home for any kind of shopping trip. If you can manage this, your family will be in a safer position overall.
4. Online Shopping: buying stuff on the Internet has become far more prevalent in Canada in the wake of COVID-19, and not without good reason. The less you need to leave home, the lower your risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. The best way to manage online shopping is to set up a single low-limit credit card for the sites you’ll be using, then handle the card payments manually through your online banking interface.
Keep a strong awareness and firm control over any spending, you don’t want to run a monthly credit balance or get hit with interest. Using a credit card instead of a debit card provides a stronger level of fraud protection than financial institutions have on checking and savings accounts alone, plus the fact your savings are insulated from your spending means less risk in the event of a major data breach. If you’re new to online shopping, it’s especially important that you use these measures from the start.
Delivery has changed, too: Canada Post’s new ‘knock, drop, run’ parcel protocols are now in effect (link). Make sure your front door is a secure spot to receive online deliveries; alternately, you can make accommodations to hold parcels at the post office or use a post office box.
Last but not least, understand that online shopping is another aspect of pandemic life where planning ahead isn’t merely helpful, it’s essential. The huge shift in Canadian consumer behaviour since COVID-19 has resulted in constant ‘Christmas season’ mail volumes and delivery delays. Even if you’re an Amazon or IKEA customer, be prepared — it will happen. Place your orders several weeks ahead of your needs if you know you’ll definitely be buying items on your wishlist. Peace of mind is priceless.
American Pandemic Prepping and Resources
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