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City of Calgary implements Municipal Emergency Plan amid coronavirus pandemic

City of Calgary implements emergency plan amid coronavirus pandemic
In response to the constantly changing COVID-19 situation, the City of Calgary implemented its municipal emergency plan on Thursday. Gil Tucker reports on what this means for residents and city workers.

In response to the constantly changing COVID-19 situation, the City of Calgary implemented its municipal emergency plan on Thursday afternoon.

In effect as of 1:45 p.m. Thursday, the plan allows officials “to prioritize service delivery and dedicate resources to priority areas,” according to the City of Calgary’s website.

READ MORE: Confirmed coronavirus cases in Alberta rise to 23, officials urge cancellation of large gatherings

The Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) also has more ability to “streamline decision-making around corporate processes” under the plan.

All city employees who can work from home are now being asked to do so, and officials are working hard to keep those who can’t work from home safe.

“Physical separation and social distancing is important during viral events, and fewer workers in the facilities will allow the city to better protect all employees,” the website said.

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Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday’s council meeting could look different from the normal gathering, with about half the city’s councillors expected to be present in council chambers and half tuning in remotely, likely by phone, as a way to practise social distancing.

Albertans advised against all travel outside Canada because of coronavirus: Province’s top doctor
Albertans advised against all travel outside Canada because of coronavirus: Province’s top doctor

The city also banned all work-related international travel on Thursday, saying it was “taking action to intentionally overreact, setting an example for business leaders and other organizations to act with caution as their first priority.”

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Domestic travel was still going ahead, the city said, but only after approval by an employee’s general manager.

‘Pushing down on the spread of the COVID[-19] virus’

“Calgarians have been super at working on this program,” CEMA chief Tom Sampson said.

“And you might say: ‘Why? There’s only been 15 cases in Calgary so far.’ What we know is that there will be more, and by taking these actions now, we’re pushing down on the spread of the COVID virus and that’s the important step.”

Nenshi acknowledged these measures might seem to some to be an overreaction, but said that when looking at how pandemics spread, “these are things we’ve got to do and we’ve got to do them quickly and we’ve got to do them now.”

“This is going to get worse. There will certainly be more cases. And we will certainly have serious cases. But there is no reason to panic,” the mayor said.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Calgary cancellations and postponements due to COVID-19

Nenshi said the city’s events team is set to meet Friday to look at upcoming events on a case-by-case basis, using assessment criteria from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“For now, we’re looking a few weeks ahead, but I want to be very clear about something: This is not a question of days or weeks, this is likely a question of a new normal for months, because that curve – we have to play through it,” Nenshi said. “So ultimately, it’s a time to start looking forward as well.”

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Calgarians are also encouraged to take advantage of services they can get online rather than in person at city hall, like buying bus passes and getting permits, though Nenshi said there are no plans right now to close down those frontline services.

Alberta’s total of confirmed cases of the virus rose to 23 on Thursday, with the province launching “aggressive new measures” to stop the spread, including advising all Albertans against travelling outside the country and “asking all large gatherings or international events in the province to be cancelled.”

Confused about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is very low for Canadians, but they caution against travel to affected areas (a list can be found here). If you do travel to these places, they recommend you self-monitor to see whether you develop symptoms and if you do, to contact public health authorities.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing – very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.