Calgary announces local state of emergency due to pandemic

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city is in a local state of emergency as of Wednesday afternoon, one day after the province announced new restrictions as COVID-19 cases soar. 

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the move allows the city to move quickly in order to respond to COVID-19

Calgary reinstated a state of local emergency on Friday, the same day new restrictions were brought in by the province. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city is in a local state of emergency as of Wednesday afternoon, one day after the Alberta government announced new restrictions as COVID-19 cases soar.

On Tuesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency along with a slate of new restrictions, including banning indoor social gatherings in private homes, public spaces or workplaces, sending many students home, closing or further restricting businesses and making masks mandatory in many indoor workspaces.

The move came as the Alberta government tries to slow a surging pandemic on a day when the province reported 1,115 new cases and 13,349 active cases of the disease, by far the highest number yet.

The declaration of a state of emergency doesn't mean any new restrictions are being imposed by the city itself, Nenshi said at an afternoon news conference with Tom Sampson, chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA). 

The mayor said declaring a state of emergency allows the city to move quickly to procure supplies, deal with vulnerable Calgarians and access funds from other levels of government, among other measures. 

It also allows for the declaration of new measures, but the mayor said that's not going to happen just yet. 

"What we would do is we would issue orders that are complementary with what the province has done, but specific to Calgary," said Nenshi. 

"So as an example, yesterday's order closed indoor playgrounds, but not necessarily indoor parks and gardens."

Nenshi avoided direct criticism of the new provincial restrictions, although he said he could not understand why casinos would remain open as other businesses and schools were closed. 

"Right now, the province has made a decision and we will push on that decision," he said. 

Nenshi said those who break the rules can, and should, face fines. 

The province announced Tuesday that peace officers or police can fine people who break restrictions $1,000 per ticketed offence and up to $100,000 through the courts.

When asked whether the Calgary Police Service would intervene in the case of a large anti-mask rally, the mayor said yes. 

"Police and peace officers will use their judgment, but we should know that gatherings of over 10 are not contemplated under the current restrictions," he said. 

He urged anyone who sees violations in progress to call 311 or the police non-emergency line.

'OK to feel grief and loss'

He also said he understands the mental health pressures and sense of loss many are feeling. 

"It's OK to feel grief and loss, anger and fear, but we have to be clear-headed in every single decision that we make," said Nenshi. 

"I also want to remind people of the importance of being connected to your communities. It's going to be easy to feel more isolated."

The mayor said he stopped family dinners two weeks ago.

The mayor also said he wants to encourage Calgarians to support local businesses through this time and forego a trip to the big box stores. 

Nenshi said he often looks for products on websites for large online retailers and then searches for it from a local store. 

"Seek a local retailer when you're doing your Christmas shopping or your regular shopping, people who pay property taxes and hire local people and sponsor your kids softball team." 

Prior to the provincial announcement, Nenshi pleaded with Calgarians to do the right thing in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 and not wait for Edmonton to act. 

On Tuesday, the province recorded 1,115 new cases of COVID and 13,349 total active cases. 

Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, will provide an update today with the latest numbers at 3:30 p.m. 

The Alberta government has resisted calls for more stringent measures, including circuit-breaker lockdowns that have been recommended by doctors as well as by Tom Sampson, chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA).

New restrictions announced by Alberta government

The new provincial restrictions announced Tuesday include:

  • Indoor social gatherings: No indoor social gatherings allowed in any setting (private homes, public spaces or workplaces). Indoor close contacts must be limited to people in the same household. It doesn't apply to service visits from caregivers, health or child care providers and co-parenting arrangements. People who live alone can have up to the same two non-household contacts throughout the restricted time. Work and support group meetings aren't considered social gatherings but must follow public health measures and limit attendance.
  • Outdoor social gatherings: Outdoor social gatherings are limited to 10 people. Movement in and out of homes isn't permitted at backyard gatherings. Everyone must remain distanced and follow public health measures. Festivals and events are banned.
  • Schools: Beginning Nov. 30, all students in Grades 7-12 will immediately move to online learning until they begin their winter break. K-6 students will continue in-person learning until their scheduled winter break (generally Dec. 18). In-person learning for all students will be delayed a week until Jan. 11. 
  • Weddings and funerals: Maximum of 10 people for wedding ceremonies or funeral services.
  • Places of worship: Faith-based groups can operate with mandatory reduced capacity, of one-third of the building's occupancy. Mask use is mandatory. This is only in effect in regions with enhanced status on the province's COVID-19 map. 
  • Working from home: All businesses are encouraged to have employees work from home as much as possible. Premier Jason Kenney said that would include provincial government employees.
  • Businesses that must close include banquet halls, conference centres, trade shows, auditoriums and concert venues, community centres, children's play places and indoor playgrounds. Sports are also included in this category.
  • Food and beverage: Restaurants, bars, pubs and lounges will be open. Tables can seat a maximum of six people from the same household, while people who live alone can meet with up to two non-household contacts who are part of their cohort. Last call will continue to be at 10 p.m. and licensed food-serving establishments must close at 11.
  • Businesses that can remain open with restrictions include most retail businesses, with capacity limited to 25 per cent of fire code occupancy. That includes liquor and cannabis shops, grocery stores, pharmacies, clothing stores, computer and technology stores, hardware, automotive and approved farmers and seasonal markets. Also included are movie theatres, museums and galleries, libraries, casinos (though table games must close) and indoor entertainment centres.
  • Masks in indoor workplaces: Masks are mandatory in all indoor workplaces in the Calgary and Edmonton areas, except when working alone in an office or a safely distanced cubicle or an appropriate barrier is in place. This does not change current student mask requirements in schools
  • Fitness and recreation centres can operate with reduced capacity, but only for individual workouts, with no group fitness, group classes, group training, team practices or games.
  • A full list of the new restrictions is available on the province's website
  • Peace officers or police can fine people who break restrictions, with $1,000 per ticketed offence.


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