Calgary declares local state of emergency due to COVID-19, prompting libraries, rec centres to close

Calgary declares local state of emergency due to COVID-19, prompting libraries, rec centres to close
WATCH: The City of Calgary is under a state of local emergency as officials work to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. As Doug Vaessen reports, that means closing everything from libraries to rec facilities.

The City of Calgary announced a local state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday night.

READ MORE: Alberta orders all classes cancelled, daycares closed as COVID-19 cases rise to 56 in the province

The city said all recreation centres and libraries would be closed immediately.

It said facility capacity at other places should be restricted to less than 250 people or 50 per cent as approved by the Calgary Fire Department.

The city recommended that businesses make as many employees as possible work from home.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: How is Calgary’s Emergency Management Agency preparing?

Mayor Naheed Nenshi called it “heartbreaking” to close libraries but said it is an “intentional overreaction” as Alberta potentially sees its first community transmission COVID-19 cases.

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“This is tough,” he said. “People rely on these services as an outlet for themselves as places to go. For many people, they are, in fact, lifelines. But given the announcement today about the closure of schools, we will not have the capacity to keep people safe in these facilities.”

The Calgary Public Library said no fines would accrue​ on any overdue items and it extended all due dates to April 30.

Calgary Economic Development on downtown vacancy rates, COVID-19 impacts on the city
Calgary Economic Development on downtown vacancy rates, COVID-19 impacts on the city

Nenshi said the city is not closing restaurants or bars but is adding provisions. Grocery stores, big box stores, airports, shopping malls and pharmacies will remain open. Nenshi reminded people not to hoard supplies.

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Casinos are exempt from the emergency declaration. It would be a directive by the province, not the city, according to the Calgary Emergency Management Agency.

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CEMA said city services are still functioning, so there is no need to panic.

“Let me be clear: your water will keep running and your power will stay on. Transit will keep operating and if you have an emergency, you can still call 911 for help from fire, police and ambulance,” said CEMA director Tom Sampson.

“I think this is the first stage tonight. We’ll watch what the province does tomorrow and try to be complementary to what it does. You’ll see the province make a move and we’ll follow or mirror the move to make Calgarians safe.”

Sampson said officials are looking for compliance through education and discussion.

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“While it can seem extreme to have places we know and love closed down, this is in line with the actions that other regions who have had success containing COVID-19. Strong measures now mean we get ahead of this before it becomes very problematic like we have seen in other cities and countries,” he said.

Nenshi added Monday’s council meeting will be split, with half of the councillors phoning in to ensure social distancing.

City of Calgary manager Dick Duckworth said late Sunday night that about 2,000 city staff members were already working from home as of Friday, and officials expect that number to climb to about 3,500 employees by Monday.

List of closures

  • Calgary Public Library
  • All City of Calgary recreation facilities
  • All city-owned, partner-operated facilities:
    • Remington YMCA at Quarry Park
    • Great Plains Recreation Facility
    • Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge
    • Brookfield YMCA at Seton
    • Westside Recreation Centre
    • Melcor YMCA at Crowfoot
    • Shawnessy YMCA
    • Saddletowne YMCA
    • Cardel Rec South (includes South Fish Creek Rec Association)
    • Vivo Centre for Healthier Generations
    • Genesis Centre (includes NECCS)
    • Trico Centre for Family Wellness
    • Repsol Centre

– With files from Global News’ Christa Dao