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Saint John to offer only essential services during COVID-19 outbreak

SJ Essential Services. Tim Roszell/Global News

The City of Saint John is moving to keep only essential services active in the community for the foreseeable future in an effort to combat the potential spread of COVID-19.

Mayor Don Darling held a news conference Tuesday, along with Fire Chief and Saint John Emergency Management Organization (SJEMO) Director Kevin Clifford and City Manager John Collin, to outline the measures.

READ MORE: Child identified as eighth case of COVID-19 in New Brunswick

“This is unprecedented territory for us as a city,” Darling said. “But we know that we have the support, people, plans and resources in place to be successful.

“Be assured that the senior leadership team for the city is organized into teams and is monitoring the rapidly-changing situation on an ongoing basis,” he added.

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Collin said services deemed essential, like police fire response and the SJEMO all remain active. SJEMO has been activated as of Tuesday afternoon to a level 2, “partial activation,” which means it is able to coordinate and operate the municipal response to the virus. The city’s 911 service is also active.

READ MORE: COVID-19 prevents chronically ill N.B. teen from getting in-hospital treatments

Other essential services staying in operation include Saint John Water drinking water and wastewater treatment services, emergency public works, emergency building inspections, road clearing and public communications.

Saint John Transit services, solid waste collections services and select vendors at the Saint John City Market fall into the “highly desirable” category, meaning they will stay in operation, subject to changes in the level of service.

All city staff with the ability to work from home will do so until further notice, Collin said.

READ MORE: N.B. implementing COVID-19 assessment centres to reduce ER visits

Staff carrying out essential services have been reminded to follow provincial safety protocols in order to protect themselves and the public from the virus, including practicing social distancing, washing hands, wearing protective gear and cleaning commonly-touched surfaces frequently.

“We are asking all of our employees to self-monitor for symptoms (of COVID-19),” Collin said. “We are insisting that any employees who are sick, even if they believe it is unrelated to COVID-19, to not come to work until they have confirmation that it is not COVID-19.”

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City Hall, other municipal operations and service buildings, fire stations, Saint John Energy and Saint John Transit counter services and offices are all closed to the public until further notice.