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Coronavirus: Calgary City Council meets under extraordinary circumstances

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WATCH: The Calgary Emergency Management Agency outlined its plans to city council on Monday. Lauren Pullen has the details – Mar 16, 2020

It was not business as usual as Calgary City Council held a special meeting Monday, after a local state of emergency was declared Sunday night.

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

Of council’s 15 members, eight were physically present in the council chamber, with a space in between each of them. The other six councillors and Mayor Naheed Nenshi participated over the phone.

City administration members were also distanced from each other in the room.

Members of the public in the gallery were also spread out and there were provisions for some to speak to land use issues over the phone.

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Councillor Jeff Davison chaired the meeting.

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“Calgary is known as many things. We’re known as an oil town, we’re known as cow town, we’re known as a town of entrepreneurs, but most importantly we’re a town of resilience,” he said as the meeting began.

“And there’s probably no time in our history that it’s more important to remember that than today.”

Nenshi had a message to Calgarians at the start of the meeting.

“We’ll get through this together. So, I want to say to Calgarians: we need social connection more than ever. We can’t visit our relatives in long-term care facilities but we can call them, we can do Face Time. Make sure those people who are alone and in isolation understand that they have connection and live in a community.”

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

The council meeting began with an update from Calgary Emergency Management Agency chief Tom Sampson, who told council the situation is highly fluid and changing by the hour, or minute, in cases.

“The corporation, I can assure, is functioning well and all essential services are responsive and capable.”

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Sampson said Calgarians are dealing well with the closures announced Sunday night of city-run recreation facilities and libraries, but added there could be more closures added to the list later on Monday.

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City Manager David Duckworth said 2,300 City of Calgary employees are working remotely from home.

He said mitigation efforts are being worked on for those employees on the front lines who deal with the public face-to-face.

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