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Coronavirus: Lethbridge declares state of local emergency amidst COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video 'City of Lethbridge declares local state of emergency amidst COVID-19 pandemic' City of Lethbridge declares local state of emergency amidst COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: City of Lethbridge officials declared a local state of emergency on Wednesday afternoon after the city’s director of emergency management made the recommendation. Danica Ferris has more – Mar 18, 2020

The City of Lethbridge has joined a growing list of communities in Alberta to declare a state of local emergency amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order took effect on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., with the decision to declare the local state of emergency coming rapidly, just two and a half hours after city staff told the media that the city wasn’t at that point yet.

READ MORE: Premier Jason Kenney declares COVID-19 public health emergency in Alberta

The recommendation to declare the local state of emergency came from Marc Rathwell, the chief of Fire and Emergency Services, who is currently operating as the city’s director of Emergency Management.

Rathwell urged residents not to view Wednesday’s decision as a drastic step.

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“It’s super important that people understand that this isn’t a huge crisis step,” said Rathwell. “It’s just a complete step up in how we manage it.”

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The city said it was an important step in helping the community access additional resources, in particular, ones to support its vulnerable citizens.

“Our focus remains on the health and wellness of our residents and employees. This declaration is another step in helping protect our community,” said Mayor Chris Spearman in a news release Wednesday.

READ MORE: City of Lethbridge prepares for COVID-19

The decision enables local authorities the power to execute special orders in accordance with the Emergency Management Act.

“We’re going to have more resourcing, and we’re going to have more powers to enable the organizations within our community to act,” said Rathwell. “And quite frankly, that’s the Emergency Coordination Centre.”

“It gives us certain powers, that we can help support our community in different ways, so there’s funding streams, there’s a myriad of ways that we’ll be able to support the community better,” he said.

“We know it isn’t an easy situation and it will take the efforts of everyone in our community, across the province and the country to help us manage the spread of COVID-19.”

READ MORE: University of Lethbridge community member self-isolating after COVID-19 exposure: officials

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The city said all essential services are being maintained with proper staffing and supplies.

Officials added contingency plans are in the works, should that change.

On Monday the City of Lethbridge closed all recreation and culture facilities following the Alberta government’s decision to close all K-12 schools.