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Coronavirus pandemic prompts Town of Banff to activate emergency plan

People walk across a street in Banff, Alta., in Banff National Park, Friday, July 21, 2017.
People walk across a street in Banff, Alta., in Banff National Park, Friday, July 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

An international tourist hot spot in Alberta’s Rockies activated an emergency plan Friday in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Today, the Town of Banff activated its Municipal Emergency Plan,” Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen said in a news release. “This is not a declaration of a state of emergency. This is a step to advance our ability to support Alberta Health, and for our workforce contingency planning.

“We need to make sure we can continue providing essential services through a period of time when some of our staff may have illness.”

Sorensen said the town also “partially activated” its Emergency Coordination Centre in order to ensure that “our most senior staff [is] meeting regularly to implement measures as the situation changes in Alberta and in our community.”

The development came on the same day that Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the province had reached 29.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: 29 confirmed cases in Alberta; school closures not recommended at this time

Click to play video 'Provincial officials provide update on Alberta’s response to COVID-19' Provincial officials provide update on Alberta’s response to COVID-19
Provincial officials provide update on Alberta’s response to COVID-19

Banff’s director of emergency management, Silvio Adamo, noted that the ECC activation “also enables greater co-ordination of information sharing in the community and co-ordination of local and regional agencies and organizations.”

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“The Town of Banff ECC maintains daily communication with the province through the Alberta Emergency Management Agency,” Adamo said. “The town operates in a support role during this health situation to ensure AHS (Alberta Health Services) public health efforts reach all people in Banff.

“The Town of Banff is responsible for ensuring essential services continue through an outbreak.”

Adamo noted that Banff “may not be notified immediately if there is a case in Banff, unless Alberta Health needs our help in notifying people who may have been in contact.”

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“However, it is important for people in our region to understand that it is likely this new coronavirus will spread to our community soon,” he said. “All cases in Alberta so far are travel-related.

“As a destination for travellers from around the world, the Bow Valley is likely to have a case emerge here. That is why we all must take extra steps to prevent the spread.”

READ MORE: Chinese tourists cancel trips to Canadian hot spots such as Banff, Jasper

Banff is following the Alberta government’s request to cancel gatherings that would see over 250 people attend, and said a wildfire forum that had been set to take place in the mountain town in May has been cancelled.

READ MORE: Alberta government calls for cancellation of large gatherings amid coronavirus pandemic

Watch below: (From March 12, 2020) Health officials in Alberta announced a series of aggressive new measures on Thursday to try and stop the spread of COVID-19 in the province. Julia Wong has more.

Click to play video 'Alberta Health adopts aggressive new measures to fight spread of COVID-19' Alberta Health adopts aggressive new measures to fight spread of COVID-19
Alberta Health adopts aggressive new measures to fight spread of COVID-19

The town has also cancelled all drop-in programs that take place at Banff Community High School and Banff Elementary School until further notice.

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For more information on Banff’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.