'Trying times': City holds emergency council meeting in response to COVID-19

The city of Edmonton has called an emergency council meeting as Alberta announces a series of new directives designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

City council will meet Friday at 9:30 a.m. to discuss its response to the ongoing pandemic, including the potential closure of city recreation centres.

Mayor Don Iveson called for the emergency council meeting during a news conference Thursday night. 

A city task force on the outbreak continues to monitor the situation, Iveson said, and frequent updates will be made to the public as the situation evolves. 

Iveson said city administration is drafting a “thoughtful” response to the escalating provincial protocols. 

“As your local government, we do have plans in place that will ensure essential services that you depend on like drinking water, emergency services, transit, waste management will all continue to be delivered regardless of what happens,” Iveson said.

“We do need to take action, and though there is no need to panic at this time, we need to act with caution.”

In her news conference held Thursday afternoon, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said public gatherings of more than 250 people and all international events in the province should be cancelled.

Schools and daycares can remain open, but Albertans are now being advised not to travel to any destination outside Canada.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 23 confirmed cases in Alberta, including seven patients in the Edmonton zone. 

During the city’s news conference, interim city manager Adam Laughlin said all large city-run events will be cancelled.

Seniors’ centres at Central Lions Recreation Centre, Northgate Lions Recreation Centre and the Mill Woods Seniors Association will close before the weekend. 

A decision on the potential closure recreation centres will be made before the weekend, Laughlin said. 

Increased cleaning is taking place at all city facilities. New travel restrictions in place for city staff and some city employees will be asked to work from home.

“These are trying times for all of us,” he said.  “What’s top of mind for me is our staff who work so hard to keep the services in Edmonton running.” 

“This is an ever-changing situation that we have to respond to in kind.” 

The City of Calgary invoked its municipal emergency plan on Thursday. The declaration stops short of invoking a state of local emergency but gives the Calgary Emergency Management Agency some additional powers so they can make quicker decisions. 

The outbreak continues to have an increasing impact on daily life in Alberta, cancelling large events, leaving store shelves barren and putting a chill on business.

The University of Alberta temporarily suspended classes on Friday.The campus, however, remains open. The University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge are taking the same measures.

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