With registration numbers down and concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on the elderly, a health conference for seniors planned for March 25 in the Tri-Cities has been cancelled.
Plans are now being made to host the “Pathways to Better Health Forum” in June, during National Seniors Week, to avoid the complications of coronavirus, which is particularly dangerous for the elderly and others with compromised immune systems.
Organizer Ken Kuhn of the Tri-Cities Seniors Planning Network said in an email the March event had only 100 people interested, when it would normally attract 300.
“Based on provincial guidance from [provincial health officer] Dr. Bonnie Henry, organizers are advised to postpone large gatherings or consider virtual options for these larger meetings,” he wrote. “This is particularly relevant given that the 'Pathways to Better Health Forum' event will have mainly seniors in attendance who could be particularly susceptible to coronavirus and its complications.
"We have also had recommendations from the BC Centre for Disease Control, the BC Ministry of Health flu lead for Fraser Health, the Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice, managers of seniors’ care facilities, an infectious disease epidemiologist, and several local MLA politicians, considering the target market of seniors for our event, that we postpone the event until we can determine when the COVID-19 spread subsides and is safe for large gatherings for seniors.”
The decision comes as eight cases of coronavirus have been found in B.C. linked to a North Vancouver care centre, including one man in his 80s, who died Sunday.
As of Wednesday, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody had not planned to cancel any events at seniors' centres, although extra cleaning is taking place and people are urged to take precautions to protect their health, including increased hand washing, and staying home if sick.
For example, a St. Patricks Day event at Wilson Lounge at the Port Coquitlam community centre was still going ahead as planned for Thursday, with 44 people registered.
All three cities say they are taking their lead from provincial health authorities and would take additional steps if advised to do so, and both Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam have set up a COVID-19 webpage with information for residents.
Among the efforts to make seniors safe are heightened cleaning protocols and good hygiene practices.
At the Wilson Lounge, Wednesday, seniors were having lunch, as usual, playing pool and socializing.
For those planners struggling to decide whether to go ahead with a public gathering, health authorities offer a step-by-step guide to holding public gatherings in a pandemic.
More information is available here.