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Calgary declares second coronavirus pandemic-related state of local emergency

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi announces a new state of local emergency from the city's emergency operations centre, pictured on Nov. 25, 2020. City of Calgary / provided

Following the Alberta government’s declaration of a public health emergency on Tuesday, the City of Calgary declared a state of local emergency (SOLE) Wednesday afternoon.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he and Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra — chair of the city’s emergency management committee — made the decision following advice from city officials and the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA), allowing the city to be on an “emergency footing,” to more rapidly work with the province to address growing COVID-19 case numbers.

Read more: Alberta enacts 2nd COVID-19 state of public health emergency. Here’s what it means

Nenshi said for citizens, “it doesn’t really mean anything.”

“We’re not anticipating any further orders or instructions or restrictions on how you live your life beyond what we’ve been talking about and what the province announced yesterday,” Nenshi said Wednesday.

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CEMA Chief Tom Sampson noted the city’s emergency operations centre is moving from a “watch phase” to a “response phase,” directing city resources where most appropriate.

“It also helps us focus and remain nimble for a quick response,” Sampson said.

“One of the key areas that we need coordination is in procurement. This allows us to secure the supplies we need to run the essential services of the city.”

The CEMA chief also said the SOLE allows the city to “protect the most vulnerable of our community.”

“We’re going to be using every tool in our toolbox and work extremely hard, in the best interest.”

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“Undoubtedly, we’re in a pretty serious emergency,” Nenshi said, adding he expects the city’s active case count to soon surpass 5,000.

Calgary’s previous SOLE lasted from March 15 to June 12 and saw the city close city-owned facilities and set some building capacity restrictions.

Read more: No clear direction yet on how to enforce Alberta’s new COVID-19 measures: officials

Meanwhile, the City of Edmonton opted not to declare a state of local emergency on Wednesday.

“At this time, administration is not recommending that a local state of emergency be enacted,” interim city manager Adam Laughlin said. “However, we continue to monitor the environment and are prepared to bring a recommendation forward to council should the situation change.

“The next three weeks are a crucial test of our collective accountability.”

On Tuesday, the province added new targeted restrictions including prohibiting indoor social gatherings, limiting outdoor gatherings to 10 people, mandating masks in workplaces in the Edmonton and Calgary areas and reducing capacity in places of worship to one-third.

Click to play video 'Alberta declares public health emergency to curb COVID-19 spike' Alberta declares public health emergency to curb COVID-19 spike
Alberta declares public health emergency to curb COVID-19 spike – Nov 24, 2020

Sampson, who is due to retire from city service on Monday, reiterated the city’s support of the province’s latest restrictions.

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“I hope these further measures show a positive impact and slow the spread of COVID and bring our case numbers down,” Sampson said. “It will take some time until we have absolute clarity on the impact of these measures.

“We’re working closely with the province to determine how we can support them.”

Part of that support will be in enforcing the new measures and Sampson said the city is seeking clarification on provincial versus municipal enforcement.

The mayor expects the Calgary Police Service will issue tickets to anyone flagrantly violating the law put in place under the province’s public health emergency declaration, saying the time for educating the public has passed.

Click to play video 'Albertans react to province’s new COVID-19 restrictions' Albertans react to province’s new COVID-19 restrictions
Albertans react to province’s new COVID-19 restrictions – Nov 25, 2020

“If you’re going to have a bunch of people without wearing masks, getting on public transit — where mask use is mandatory — and disrupting other people’s commutes and making them unsafe, then yes, I would expect the tickets would be issued,” Nenshi said.

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“If you’re having a peaceful rally and you’re following the rules, then there’s no need to issue tickets because you’re not violating anything.”

Handling risk

Nenshi called back to his “clean hands, clear heads, open hearts” pandemic catchphrase, asking Calgarians to have a “clear head” when examining their everyday activities going forward.

“Every single decision that you make, ask yourself, ‘Is this the right thing to do right now? Is there a better way to do this? Is there a safer way to do this? Is there a way to do this that can be delayed?’” the mayor said.

“Ultimately, it comes down to the same question — is it worth the risk? Is it worth the risk to myself, to my neighbours, to my family and to my community?”

Nenshi recognized that, in a city of 1.3 million, Calgarians evaluate risk differently.

“That risk isn’t just to you, it’s to someone you don’t even know,” the mayor said.

Read more: How did Alberta’s previous COVID-19 restrictions impact case numbers?

He recognized his risk tolerance is “pretty darn low,” and is encouraging Calgarians to bring their risk tolerance lower than they normally would.

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“It’s a cliche, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”