City Council meets on Edmonton’s COVID-19 response

Edmonton’s City Council called an emergency meeting this morning to review the City’s escalating response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The purpose of municipalities is to provide good government, provide services and develop safe, viable communities,” said Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin. 

“It goes without saying that your administration is committed to responding appropriately to the advice and direction of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Our attention to this is high and we are focused on making decisions that are fact-based and will best serve our employees and Edmontonians.”

Laughlin said containment of the virus is job one. The City is focusing on keeping its staff healthy “so that they can continue to offer continuity of key services.”

“To that end, we are focused on flattening the curve, which means minimizing the number of people who become ill, so that we have a critical mass of healthy staff working for Edmontonians,” Laughlin said. “We are instituting measures to reduce person-to-person transmission during this pandemic.”

Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin, with senior leadership colleagues

These measures include: 

  • Eliminating all business travel within and outside Canada
  • Complying with Alberta Health Service’s direction for all staff to self-isolate for 14 days if they’ve been out of the country, regardless of whether they show symptoms.
  • Insisting that City employees showing any flu-like symptoms stay home from work.
  • Instituting temporary work-from-home arrangements under appropriate circumstances.
  • Employing social distancing practices, including cancelling non-essential meetings, cancelling in-person training, conducting meetings virtually where operationally feasible and avoiding physical contact

Flattening the curve

New York Times

The term “flattening the curve” has become popular in discussions about COVID-19. Its essence is captured in graphs like the one above. Basically, the concept refers to the need for individuals, groups and institutions big and small to take protective measures that buy time so the health care system can handle demand, service delivery is maintained and researchers can develop treatment. 

What’s open, what’s closed

The COVID-19 situation is dynamic. At the time of Council’s emergency meeting, the City had, until further notice, cancelled all events that have more than 250 attendees in City-operated facilities, parks, open spaces and roads. 

“We are conscious that we will need to work closely with event producers who are our partners to determine what the implications could be for Edmonton’s festival season,” said Laughlin. 

All City-led public engagement meetings and sessions are postponed. 

City recreation facilities and pools will remain open, but some spaces inside, including play areas, may be temporarily closed and programming limited. Admission to larger recreation centres is restricted to 50 people per amenity at this time. This includes Meadows, Terwillegar, Clareview, Commonwealth,  Mill Woods and Londonderry. 

Admission to smaller leisure centres is restricted to 50 people per facility at a time.

Being cancelled are registered and drop-in programs at recreation centres. 

All seniors programs will be cancelled by the end of today, March 13, 2020. Any bookings over the weekend that have less than 250 people are cancelled. By Sunday night, all drop-in seniors centres will be closed.

All City attractions are being assessed, and decisions will be made regarding the appropriateness of staying open.

Councillor Scott McKeen, Mayor Don Iveson, Councillor Tim Cartmell, Friday, March 13, 2020. A number of councillors joined the meeting by phone.

Questions, Cleaning, Transit

City Councillors asked a variety of questions from a variety of angles, including provisions for City employees who follow self-isolation guidelines from provincial health authorities, and protections for homeless Edmontonians.

One of the repeated themes was cleanliness on buses and in other facilities. Council heard that enhanced cleaning is either planned or already underway, and that expense is not a factor. 

“We are increasing frequency and intensity of cleaning in our facilities and on Edmonton Transit Service,” said Laughlin.

This means the normal practice of disinfecting handles, buttons, stanchions, floors, and other commonly-touched surfaces, and the regular deep vapour steam cleaning of cloth seats are being enhanced.

As part of standard cleaning practices in recreation centres, surfaces like door handles, counters and taps are wiped throughout the day, and cleaned thoroughly at night. Additional daytime cleaning and nighttime disinfecting practices are now being introduced. All patrons are asked to practice social distancing, regular handwashing, and those who are ill are asked to stay home. 

Mayor Don Iveson noted anecdotally that demand on transit was lighter this morning as Edmontonians practised social distancing. 

At times like these…”

Laughlin summed up the City’s commitment in his remarks to City Council. 

“It is at times like these that cities distinguish themselves as places that care and focus on the right work,” Laughlin said. “We have been grateful to you for your steadfast leadership during difficult times in the past and as Edmonton faces an unprecedented health situation, we know that we can rely on you to support us through the next few weeks and months.”

After the emergency City Council meeting, Mayor Don Iveson and Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin answered questions from the news media. Watch the news conference here: 

Read the City of Edmonton’s news release. 

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