London Chamber of Commerce postpones virtual State of the City event amid state of emergency

London Mayor Ed Holder during his State of the City address in 2019. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

The London Chamber of Commerce says it’s pushing back the date of its 2021 State of the City address amid the coronavirus pandemic, after the province on Tuesday declared a second state of emergency that will remain in place for the next 28 days.

In addition, the province also issued a stay-at-home order, set to take effect this Thursday, requiring everyone to remain at home except for essential purposes, including going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, exercise, or essential work.

Read more: Coronavirus: Ontario declares 2nd state of emergency, issues stay-at-home order

The pandemic had already forced the chamber to turn the event, normally held during breakfast at RBC Place London with hundreds of business and civic leaders in attendance, into an online affair.

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For up to $60 per person, attendees to the virtual event this year will be given access to an exclusive livestream of Mayor Ed Holder’s speech, in addition to a $20 voucher for use at a participating local restaurant.

It’s not yet clear when this year’s State of the City will be held.

In a statement, chamber CEO, Gerry Macartney, said they would work with vendors, sponsors, and the mayor’s office to determine the next best date.

“We regret any inconvenience but out of an abundance of caution, we feel this is the best decision possible,” he said.

Read more: A look at new coronavirus restrictions under Ontario’s stay-at-home order

Mayor Ed Holder issued his own statement, saying that given the current COVID-19 situation in London-Middlesex, and the province’s announcement Tuesday, he was in “full agreement” with the chamber to postpone the event.

“The situation across Ontario is dire, and the same is true here in the London-region,” he said.

“My message to Londoners, in the interim, is a simple one: stay safe, and stay healthy.”

The London region has seen an explosion in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, posting at least 1,144 cases and 30 deaths just between Jan. 1 and 11.

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As of Tuesday, 40 people were in the care of London Health Sciences Centre with COVID-19, including 15 in critical or intensive care.

Read more: End of an era for Eddie’s Fresh Grill due to health issues and massive rent increase

While the annual State of the City is a private fundraiser for the London Chamber of Commerce, the event has a big public impact.

During the speech, the mayor presents their outlook for the city for the upcoming year, touching on the local economy, jobs, and more.

In his address last year, Mayor Holder announced he was looking to move London Transit away from diesel toward a fully electrified fleet.

The year prior, he unveiled the creation of the London Jobs Now task force, aimed at lifting 13,000 people out of unemployment by the end of the current council term.

The event had, at one time, been streamed by the media to the public for free, a practice that the chamber has since scrapped, citing concerns over potential lost ticket sales.

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