A handwashing station and internet cafe are the newest additions to the Comox Valley Lifelong Learning Centre.

It’s free to use the computers, so long as you wash your hands first at the station.

It’s an open air sink and is open to everyone during cafe hours.

Safety steps include regular sanitization, mandatory handwashing, and a nine-foot buffer between each computer station.

You will be screened before going in and directed to contact 811 and denied entry if you show any symptoms of COVID-19.

Other services include outdoor phone chargers and nursing care through the CareAVan on Thursday mornings between 9:00am and 11:00am.

The centre’s executive director, Peter Bazovsky, said they were looking to come up with a strategy that best met the needs of their clients.

He said this is a particular challenge, since they can’t offer face-to-face tutoring, or have people gather in groups for learning.

Bazovsky said people who don’t have computer access aren’t able to connect with family, friends, doctors and social workers, get accurate information about the pandemic, and do “everyday leisurely activities that all of us are taking for granted at this point.”

Once he set up the cafe, Bazovsky realized he had no way for people to wash their hands before they came in.

Bazovsky also noticed that the homeless had no way of washing their hands.

“I think up until quite recently, there were no public washrooms available, and so what they were doing was instead using hand sanitizer,” he added. “Hand sanitizer on top of dirty hands, on top of touching things, and people’s hands were getting more and more encrusted with dirt. So this isn’t actually promoting any benefit in terms of hygiene.”

He said advice to wash hands is lost if there is nowhere to be able to do that.

“So I set up an outdoor hand washing basin,” Bazovsky said. “I worked with a local contractor, Tom Baxter, and we brought in essentially a wash basin, it’s got a sink, a tap, it only runs cold water, I brought in some hand soap.”

It’s connected to a garden hose and also has a grey water disposal. 

He hopes the idea of having outdoor handwashing stations catches on across the city.

“My message to the community would be that we need to have stations like this set up anywhere where there are public faucets of water because this is not rocket science,” he said.

“Right now my plea would be to get these out in public as soon as possible. There is no reason that anywhere that has external access can’t have a handwashing station. All we really need are sinks. It’s a fairly rural community. I can’t imagine that people don’t have wash stations and sinks in their backyards for the purposes of gardening etc.”

He said having a station every two blocks would at least psychologically tell people that this is something they should think about doing.”