'This isn't a sprint,' city manager tells Edmonton committee on COVID-19 preparations

The City of Edmonton, making preparations to control the coronavirus outbreak, isn’t currently planning to shut down any facilities or to cancel events, council’s emergency advisory committee heard Tuesday.

Police and deputy fire chiefs joined city managers to brief councillors on the city’s emergency preparedness plan, which includes monitoring public events.

Monitoring mass gatherings, including Oilers games at Rogers Place, is one measure the City of Edmonton is taking to deal with a potential spread of the novel coronavirus.

City manager Adam Laughlin, who is the director of the city’s emergency management agency, emphasized the risk of spread is low in Edmonton.

Laughlin said his team is working on balancing risk with good, clear communication for the public.

“Stay calm, provide folks the comfort that, ‘We got this.'”

Laughlin is in touch with the provincial government every day, getting updates from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health.

He said the emergency response will involve days or weeks of preparation.

“This isn’t a sprint,” Laughlin told the committee. “They consider this a marathon.” 

The city is preparing for staffing shortages, reviewing continuity plans and engaging a coronavirus task team. It’s also taking advice from the province on creating a COVID-19 specific protocol for sick days for employees. 

Laughlin emphasized that the risk of coronavirus spreading in Edmonton is low but the intention behind preparations is high. 

He said the city takes its cue from the province and will rely on regional collaboration and provincial support. 

Councillors, including Aaron Paquette, want to make sure the public knows where to get information. 

“If you have concerns, if you have questions, it’s 811 or the Alberta Health Services website,” Paquette said.  “It’s important we make that very, very clear.” 

Deputy fire chief Rob Squire said monitoring large public events like Oilers playoff games is part of the plan. 


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