Calgary implements state of emergency over COVID-19
Move gives city power to ensure businesses reduce their capacity
By Bill Graveland
CALGARY — The City of Calgary is in a local state of emergency to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
Downtown streets were mostly empty Monday and traffic was light as many Calgarians heeded public warnings about the novel coronavirus and decided to work from home.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi declared the state of emergency at a news conference Sunday night. He ordered all city-owned and operated fitness facilities and pools, as well as public libraries, to close.
Also on Sunday, the Alberta government suspended all kindergarten to Grade 12 classes and in-person post-secondary lectures.
“This is very, very serious. We will get more cases. We will get more community transmission,” Nenshi said at the news conference.
“What we need to do is not panic, not stockpile, but be prepared and be thoughtful about what we’re doing moving forward.”
The move gives Calgary the power to ensure that businesses and restaurants reduce by half their normal capacity, to a maximum of 250.
“Maybe people will say months from now, ‘Wow, we overreacted,’ but if we have the ability to say we overreacted it means we did the right thing,” Nenshi said.
“It means that we were able to keep this pandemic down in the city, to flatten the curve to spread out the risk.”
The order doesn’t include grocery stores, airports, shopping centres, pharmacies and casinos.
The head of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency said residents shouldn’t worry about basic services.
“Your water will keep running and your power will stay on. Transit will keep operating and if you have an emergency, you can still call 911 for help from fire, police and ambulance,” said agency director Tom Sampson.
“There is no need to panic or worry that you won’t receive essential city services.”
Sampson said it was important to take strong measures before things passed the point of no return.
“While it can seem extreme to have places we know and love closed down, this is in line with the actions (of) other regions who have had success containing COVID-19.”