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Edmonton extends state of emergency, cancels sports leagues until May 31 amid COVID-19 pandemic

Edmonton reducing transit hours, suspending E-scooters and other COVID-19 safety measures
WATCH ABOVE: Interim city manager Adam Laughlin talks about the new safety measures that includes ETS service reductions and more protection for transit operators, cancellation of public sports fields bookings, electric scooter license suspension and creating more options for sharing roadways with walkers and cyclists.

City council voted to extend the state of emergency as the City of Edmonton continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision was made during a meeting of the emergency advisory committee Thursday afternoon. The decision places Edmonton in the state of emergency for another seven days, at which time it will need to be renewed again.

The city also announced a number of changes related to Edmonton sports leagues, transit and e-scooters.

Sports leagues

Sports leagues have officially been cancelled until the end of May.

The city’s sports fields remain open, but all playground equipment is still closed.

“All your efforts are helping us to flatten the curve and contain the virus, so please keep doing your part by staying in, washing hands and maintain physical distance if you have to go out,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

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“It’s working, which means it’s saving lives.”

City of Edmonton solutions to closed sports fields
City of Edmonton solutions to closed sports fields

READ MORE: New estimates suggest COVID-19 could cost City of Edmonton between $140M and $260M

Interim city manager Adam Laughlin said Edmonton has been in and will remain in touch with sports community partners and that refunds have been provided for all bookings until the end of May.

“We do hope to see teams back on the field soon, but we’re only going to permit that when we feel it’s safe to do so.”

Transit changes

Due to an almost 80 per cent decrease in ridership, especially in the morning and evening, the LRT will shut down by 10 p.m. and all ETS busses will stop running by midnight, effective Monday.

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Laughlin said the city understands that the decision may have a negative impact on some riders who are providing essential services and said the city has been in touch with the affected businesses. In an effort to ensure people can still get to and from work safely, Laughlin said the city may explore a shuttle option or perhaps a partnership with the vehicle-for-hire industry.

Interim Edmonton city manager on transit changes
Interim Edmonton city manager on transit changes

Jasper Place, Castle Downs and Government Centre transit centres will all also be closed at 10 p.m. each night.

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Those changes go into effect on April 20.

According to Laughlin, the decision to make that change was in the interest of public safety and the fact that ridership has decreased so drastically.

READ MORE: Many summertime decisions put off as Edmonton officials monitor COVID-19 pandemic

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The city had been dealing with a number of “all-day riders” who were using the buses as a way to shelter from the cold and because fares were suspended in March. He said the city’s efforts to manage those riders have been successful, with most being transported downtown to shelters via shuttles.

Low ridership, destinationless passengers reason for reduced Edmonton Transit service
Low ridership, destinationless passengers reason for reduced Edmonton Transit service

Laughlin said these changes will likely not be the last, as the pandemic has shown the city has to come up with “ongoing iterations” of solutions to problems as they come up.

“We’re acting very quickly on these issues when they come up and… sometimes, and this is the uniqueness of being in a state of emergency, we’re doing this prior to even having a conversation with council about it.”

READ MORE: EEDC announces more layoffs, pay cuts and senior leadership departures amid COVID-19 crisis

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As well, DATS users will only be transported one at a time and there will be five new screening questions introduced at booking. DATS drivers will also be given masks.

Laughlin said DATS drivers are being offered masks while more traditional transit drivers are not for a few reasons, including that DATS buses do not have the plexi-glass shield around the driver and drivers are in closer contact with DATS riders than on other buses.

E-scooters

The businesses licence between the city and e-scooter companies has been suspended due to the ongoing pandemic.

According to Laughlin, there is no way to guarantee the scooters are properly cleaned between riders and the opportunity to spread the novel coronavirus is high.

“The licence agreement will not be renewed for the duration of this public health emergency,” he said.

READ MORE: E-scooters not returning to Edmonton streets this spring due to COVID-19

The City of Edmonton first declared a state of emergency on March 20. The declaration is reviewed and renewed on a weekly basis.

Edmonton extends state of emergency, cancels sports leagues until May 31
Edmonton extends state of emergency, cancels sports leagues until May 31
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