EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally said any person who has travelled internationally and who arrived either on or after March 7 is required to self-isolate for 14 days. The date has been corrected to say March 17. We regret the typo.
Any person who has travelled internationally, who arrived either on or after March 17 and whose final destination was Calgary — regardless of how they arrived – is required to self-isolate for 14 days, the Calgary Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday.
CEMA said the order — aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 — was in effect as of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, and meant that anyone who landed at YYC Calgary International Airport, for example, immediately go straight home without making any stops.
CEMA chief Tom Sampson said those who need groceries or other supplies should have friends or family help them get what they need or take advantage of grocery delivery services.
Sampson said the order doesn’t apply to people who are just passing through the city on a layover and are not leaving the airport. He added the order is also subject to reasonable exceptions like visiting a doctor, pharmacy or hospital.
The update comes after Premier Jason Kenney declared a public health emergency in Alberta.
As of the province’s announcement Tuesday, all public gatherings of more than 50 people are now banned across Alberta, and the list of public closures extended to casinos, bingo halls, restaurants and bars where minors aren’t permitted, community centres and more.
Places like sit-down restaurants, coffee shops and food courts are allowed to stay open, though they have to limit patrons to 50 per cent of their capacity to a maximum of 50 people.
Sampson said that means that even if a restaurant or coffee shop’s capacity is 50 people, they can only seat 25.
“I think that’s a statement of how important it is for us to have physical distancing,” he said.
He went on to reiterate that there is no need to panic-buy or hoard food, adding “grocery stores will remain open” and this is a “perfect time to support your corner grocer who is a member of your community.”
He also said that essential services like water, recycling and waste collection are continuing as normal.
Calgary Transit changes
There are some changes to Calgary Transit, however, namely to the shuttles that take people from the airport into the city.
All of those buses will load through the rear door only, as a way to provide more protection for both the driver and passengers who are taking the routes.
Acting director Russell Davies said Calgary Transit is looking at expanding that protocol to other routes in the city as well.
Davies said there’s been a significant drop in ridership this week which is allowing for more social distancing on the buses.
“The cleanliness of the buses is still being addressed from a daily or nightly cleaning that’s happening on every bus, every night,” Davies said. “But the bus is only as clean as when it leaves the facility. Once people get on board, if someone has the coronavirus, at that point it’s a different situation for us.”
Davies said one Calgary Transit staff member, a trainer, has tested positive for COVID-19 and as a result, 27 others are in self-isolation.
Calgary police chief Mark Neufeld and Calgary fire chief Steve Dongworth also spoke Tuesday, reassuring residents that emergency services would still be there to meet their needs.
Neufeld said since schools have cancelled classes for students, school resource officers are among some of the departments that are shifting slightly as the force deals with the COVID-19 pandemic and its response.
He added that officers will be regularly checking in with members of the business community who now have empty store fronts and restaurants. However, he said there hasn’t been an increase in crime in Calgary since the outbreak reached Alberta, at least so far.
“Our members will continue to respond to calls for service,” Neufeld said. “We have the same number of officers in the community as when the emergency began. There may come a time where, owing to capacity, we may need to put in place a differential response plan, but as of today, we are not at that point.
“We want you to know if you call 911 in an emergency, we will be there as we always do.”
Dongworth said the Calgary Fire Department has a COIVID-19 task force that’s been working behind the scenes for several weeks on strategic planning of things like maintaining staffing levels and whether there are calls that firefighters may temporarily not attend, or attend at a different level of priority.
Calgary declared a state of local emergency on Sunday as officials work to stop the spread of COVID-19. That move saw spaces like rec centres and libraries close.
Situation could last for months
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said on Tuesday that the situation the province is in could last months. Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that’s a possibility the City of Calgary has been preparing for.
“In terms of supplying essential services, as long as we keep that curve flat, as long as we have people well enough to come to work, we are going to keep providing those essential services,” he said, adding that Calgarians should expect the same quality of service.
“But I’m certainly worried about the sustainability of businesses,” he added.
Nenshi said in his conversations with both levels of government, he’s heard no resistance to that.
“They too want to make things work and they are most interested in what is the most effective way to get money into these peoples’ pockets, and how can we do it quickly,” Nenshi said.