The director of Saskatoon’s Emergency Measures Organization is calling on the Saskatchewan government to ban public gatherings of any size.
Pamela Goulden-McLeod commended the province’s move to enact a state of emergency but implored provincial leaders to go one step further and enact a widespread ban.
“This is a defining moment for our lifetime,” Goulden-McLeod said.
The province has such authority, Goulden-McLeod said, which would allow city officials to direct restaurants, bars and other large gathering locations to close.
Some restaurants could remain open for delivery, but the focus would be to prevent several people from gathering in a single space, Goulden-McLeod said.
“The safety of our residents is the only consideration going forward,” Goulden-McLeod said.
City manager Jeff Jorgenson said the provincial statement of emergency supersedes the city’s authority’s emergency measures.
“Although that is a very significant step to take, we believe that taking that step is in the best interest of the citizens of Saskatoon,” Jorgenson said.
Mayor Charlie Clark said the city will engage with the provincial and federal governments to ensure financial relief makes it to any people or business affected by any closures.
“Make sure we understand what everybody’s doing and which levers we can pull to provide the best options,” Clark said.
The City of Saskatoon said Wednesday it is closing all its facilities, including city hall, after the Saskatchewan government declared a state of emergency.
“While we are closed to the public, our business operations will continue to provide essential services for our residents as much as possible,” Jorgenson said Wednesday in a statement.
“We continue to work with internal and external partners, including the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the Ministry of Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada on a proactive approach to deal with COVID-19.”
Jorgenson said taking this action will help protect city staff and vulnerable people in the community, including seniors and those with compromised immune systems.
The city said on Tuesday that garbage collection remains on schedule and that snow clearing and maintenance operations are continuing.
Saskatoon Transit also continues to operate.
City officials said they are constantly reassessing the situation to ensure everyone’s safety and the way services are delivered.
Premier Scott Moe declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.
New measures in place include banning gatherings of more than 50 people, limiting seating in restaurants and bars, and ordering gyms, fitness centres, casinos and bingo halls closed until further notice.
To date, there are two confirmed and 14 presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan. Both confirmed cases are in Saskatoon.
Health officials said all but one patient is well enough to self-isolate at home. One person with a presumptive case is in hospital for medical reasons not related to COVID-19.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
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