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  • UPDATING LONDONERS ON LOCAL COVID-19 SITUATION

    Dear Londoners,

    We are in the middle of an unusual time as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much in such a short time.

    I do not want to downplay the upcoming challenges to the residents of London, not just the immediate public health situation, but also the difficult economic recovery afterward. Trying times need us to take on these challenges together. As your Councillor, I will be a strong voice advocating to ensure Londoners not only survive today, but flourish tomorrow.

    I’m doing my best to keep people informed through social media, phone calls and emails, answering questions as best as I’m able. However, the situation is fluid and changes from day to day. So, I do ask for your understanding and patience during this time.

    As of the time I’m writing this, London has 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19.  We are testing over 100 people a day. Although this is serious I think that there is a silver lining to take away in that lots of the tests do come back negative. We WILL see additional confirmed cases in the days ahead, but compared to growth in other countries (in particular our American neighbours) we are trending in the right direction.

    IF WE ALL DO OUR PART AND FOLLOW THE RECOMMENDED PRECAUTIONS, we will get out of this sooner than later. If we do not…well, then it will be much longer for things to get back to normal.

    I also want to caution people that not everything you see or read on social media is true or accurate. Don’t accept every thought or OPINION as FACT.  For accurate information I’m relying on our professional local staff; our Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie and his team, City Manager Lynne Livingstone and our senior leadership team.  I’m also following information from the Government of Canada, Health Canada, and the Government of Ontario. The federal government website includes links to information about emergency financial benefits that those who have suddenly found themselves out of work can apply for.

    For credible information I recommend these websites:

    https://www.healthunit.com/novel-coronavirus

    https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus

    https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html

    For a list of the public health measures that have been put in place in London by the 3 different levels of government, click on or download the PDF.

    I also wanted to share some key updates on a variety of related topics:

    ROAD OPERATIONS & REPAIRS:

    Emergency repairs of roads and ongoing required street operations will continue while we maintain minimal operations & essential services.

    WATER OPERATIONS:

    Emergency repairs and ongoing required water operations continue while we maintain minimal operations & essential services. Services include water quality, spills, floods & storm response. Report emergencies by calling 519-661-2489.

    PLEASE DON’T FLUSH PAPER TOWELS/WIPES/ETC. DOWN THE TOILET!

    THEY DO NOT BREAK DOWN THE SAME AS TOILET PAPER AND COULD LEAD TO SEWER BACK-UPS!!!

    Bagged Garbage Fee Waived at EnviroDepots:

    We recognize that with people at home more, the garbage is filling up faster. While curbside pick-up might be more convenient, we also have staff capacity to consider and whether or not we can provide regular scheduled service, we need Londoners to do their part and help out.  I brought a motion to Council this week that London City Council has passed to waive the $1.50 per bag fee for residents that need to dispose of bagged garbage at three EnviroDepots until May 4, 2020. Homes that have to dispose of bagged garbage above the three container limit can do so at one of these three EnviroDepot without paying the fee.

    Bag Tags for curbside pickup are available at three EnviroDepots. We recommend that you purchase tags for extra garbage and place out for curbside collection to avoid use of the Depot if possible, or store materials such as extra bagged garbage and yard waste as long as possible.

    http://www.london.ca/newsroom/Pages/PSA-Updates-to-Londons-Waste-Collection.aspx

    PARKS & PLAYGROUNDS:

    We tried to keep playground equipment, basketball, tennis courts etc. open for use because providing people an outlet to get outside and get some exercise and fresh air is really important to mental well being.  Unfortunately, after carefully monitoring the use of public playgrounds last weekend, and seeing that physical distancing was not being practiced by users, the City has closed all of its outside play structures. This includes playgrounds, skate parks and multi-use courts.  

    In addition to these closures, all City sports fields, golf courses and community gardens remain closed until further notice.

    All City parks and open spaces remain accessible to the public. For anyone who chooses to use these spaces, the City asks for the public’s full and continued cooperation in following all of the precautions identified by the Middlesex London Health Unit including:

    • Stay six feet away from each other (physical distancing)
    • Avoid all non-essential gatherings of any size
    • Stay home from work and other activities if you are sick
    • Self-isolate if you have travelled outside of Canada
    • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently (for at least 20 seconds)
    • Cover coughs and sneezes with your sleeve or cough and sleeve into your elbow
    • Clean and disinfect high touch areas frequently

    https://www.london.ca/newsroom/Pages/City-closes-outside-play-structures;-parks-and-open-spaces-remain-accessible.aspx

    ECONOMIC RELIEF:

    While the primary assistance for individuals, families, and businesses will have to come from the federal and provincial governments, City Council recognized there were some steps we could take immediately to provide some assistance.

    At Council this week we passed the following measures:

    • All interest and penalties for unpaid Interim 2020 Property Tax Installments that come due on March 31, 2020 will be waived for a period of 60 days.
    • All interest and penalties for unpaid water and wastewater billings will be waived for a minimum period of 60 days.
    • All Community Improvement Plan (CIP) loan repayments will be deferred on an interest-free basis for a minimum period of 60 days

    For more details on this visit:

    https://www.london.ca/newsroom/Pages/City-Council-approves-motions-to-provide-immediate-economic-relief-to-Londoners-and-businesses-.aspx

    ELECTRICITY RATES:

    Although the company name is London Hydro, our electricity rates are regulated by the province of Ontario, not the City of London.  However, I know with kids home from school and many of us working from home or not working at all, electricity use during the day “peak period” has been up, and at a time when we can’t afford it, that was going to be a hit to our household budgets.

    Last Thursday I connected with Minister Jeff Yurek, the MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London in the Ontario government.  I raised this concern with him then. He thanked me for reaching out to share it with him, indicated he was hearing the same concerns from others and was working on it.

    Yesterday the Ontario government announced that for the next 45 days users would not pay extra for “peak” and “mid-peak” period electricity.  We will all pay the “off-peak” rate regardless of the time of day we are using electricity.

    We should still do our best to minimize our consumption. It isn’t free electricity, we will still get a bill, but this will provide on average about a $20 savings on most home electricity billings.

    OPEN AIR BURNING:

    We understand that it is ‘fun’ for families, especially right now, to be able to have a backyard cookout, but we’ve currently enacted an open air burn ban in place to assist with social distancing. These activities inevitably result in calls to the fire department. These calls are non-emergent and put our crews in contact with members of the community unnecessarily. We will re-instate the ability to have open burns when it is safe to do so in the community.

    http://www.london.ca/newsroom/Pages/Ban-Open-Burning-April.aspx

    LONDON TRANSIT SERVICES:

    City Council and the London Transit Commission recognize that for many Londoner’s transit is an essential service. It is their only way to work, the grocery store, etc. In fact many of those who need transit to go to work are those stocking our grocery store shelves, loading and unloading transport trucks at warehouses and stores, and many other important jobs.

    We also need to do what we can to enable physical distancing as much as possible for our transit drivers so the service can continue.

    That is the reason that effective Monday March 23rd we’ve waived the transit fares and asked passengers to board and exit our buses from the rear door. We have no way to collect fees or check passes at the rear door, some locations that sell bus tickets and passes are closed making it harder for riders to get those, and at the same time this limits the number of interactions our drivers have to have with passengers.

    We ask that citizens please respect that this is not “FREE TRANSIT” to help you get out and socialize. We ask that you please minimize your transit trips and STAY HOME IF YOU ARE ILL!

    We also cannot provide full transit services during this situation. Express routes are not running and some regular routes have reduced frequency of service. For updated information on what is running and when visit:  http://www.londontransit.ca/2020/03/12/covid-19-2019-novel-coronavirus/

    LONDON PUBLIC LIBRARY:

    As a member of the Library Board, I can tell you that making the decision to close our branches was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to help make in the past two weeks. Our libraries offer important information, education, and online access as well as being a place for social connections.  Fortunately, access to our digital collection is still available to those with a library card and if you don’t currently have a valid library card we’re allowing access through temporary online accounts.

    If you are a regular library user and happen to have books or other material on loan, we’ve also automatically extended the borrowing period so that you will not have late fines.

    http://www.londonpubliclibrary.ca/

    CN RAIL:

    A key part of shipping consumer goods to restock empty store shelves and plays an important role in the food and beverage sector. They are communicating with all levels of government, and supply chain partners to ensure goods continue to move without interruption.  The closure of the Canada-USA boarder to non-essential travel does not affect cargo rail.

    While I recognize that many of us are going out for walks, it is as important as it always is to please stay off the rail lines.  Please stick to our sidewalks and trails and please continue to observe a 6ft distance from others who may be out enjoying a walk as well.

    AND FINALLY ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

    I know the whole social/physical distancing thing is hard. Humans after all are social animals at heart. But there are still things we can do to help and support each other during this time. I know personally how much I’ve appreciated having FaceTime calls with family and friends instead of a call or text, just to be able to see the person in real time.

    Councillor Morgan is more than just my colleague, he’s a long time friend and right now he’s in isolation with his family after they returned from a trip to the USA just before things changed. I was able to help him out by picking up groceries that they needed (I may have included something from the LCBO in the supply box) and deliver them to his house, leaving them at the garage door and then backing away so he could get them. Even from a safe distance it was just as good for me to see him and wave to the kids as it was for them to have those groceries. If someone needs help with that sort of thing, lending a hand is a good way to help maintain social contact while maintaining physical distancing.

    There are many of us who are still going to work, feeling extra stressed and anxious because they HAVE to go out to work. We need them to go to work. They drive our buses, stock our grocery shelves, prepare food, deliver healthcare, and more. Let’s all remember to be thankful for their service.

    Be kind to each other, and be well.

    Sincerely,

    Shawn Lewis

    Ward 2 Councillor, London

  • Lewis Calls for Overnight Parking Changes

    If the overnight parking ban exists to make winter road maintenance easier for city crews, why do we have it from September 1st to Victoria Day in May?

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  • Friday Roundtable on 980 CFPL: Talking Conestoga Huts & Housing

  • The FACTS: Public WiFi in London

    During the Multi-Year Budget process, City Council approved my push to go forward and start offering free public access WiFi in our recreation centres; arenas, pools, community centres, where it does not already exist (there is an inequality across the city where some facilities have it, some don’t).

    This was a campaign promise I made and I’m happy to have council’s support in delivering this, with a 12-3 vote in favour.

    I also want to be clear, about misinformation being circulated saying WiFi services at the public library were cut and then council funded this instead.

    THAT IS 100% FALSE!

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  • Family Day Free Public Skate

    On Family Day I will be hosting my 2nd annual free family skate at Argyle Arena from 2-4pm.

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