Edmonton to lift state of local emergency Friday

"We feel comfortable that this is a good step," interim city manager Adam Laughlin told councillors Thursday.

Measure has given city manager extraordinary power to impose social restrictions

Council's emergency advisory committee has renewed the state of local emergency every week since it was first declared on Mar. 20. (City of Edmonton)

The City of Edmonton will lift its state of local emergency on Friday.

During city council's weekly emergency advisory committee meeting Thursday, interim city manager Adam Laughlin recommended the city lift the measure that has been in place for 11 weeks. 

The city first declared the state of local emergency on March 20 in response to the province's public health orders to combat COVID-19.

Laughlin said Edmontonians have been adhering to health guidelines at outdoor sports facilities and playgrounds over the past week.

"We feel comfortable that this is a good step," he told council.

City peace officers are still authorized to enforce orders as set by the provincial chief medical officer of health, such as physical distancing.

Laughlin said if people start flouting public health orders, the city can revisit the state of local emergency. 

"We will act quickly to request a reinstatement of that," he said. 

Coun. Andrew Knack stressed that the city and province are still in a pandemic and said he hopes residents will continue to follow public health regulations. 

"Noting that there were still people that lost their lives and that there were still people that got ill, we had relatively better success in our numbers because of our diligence," Knack said. "I just hope that by not renewing this that we don't forget that."

The city is looking at re-opening recreation centres and gyms based on the province's guidance during its Stage 2 relaunch, which could start June 19 or earlier.

Homeless shelters

Lifting the state of local emergency means facilities will eventually return to their original uses, including the Expo Centre and Kinsmen Sports Centre which have been used as shelters for homeless people. 

City managers estimate it will take six to eight weeks to transition the homeless population out of these facilities, which they've been able to use since late March. 

Tony Caterina, councillor for Ward 7 in the northeast, said he wants the Expo Centre returned to its convention uses sooner rather than later. 

"A lot of challenges right now and a lot of concerns from constituents about the far-reaching effect that this has had," Caterina said during the meeting. 

He has been raising concerns about social disorder around 118th Avenue and neighbouring streets since the temporary shelters opened. 

"I really need to have a sense of days, weeks, months — that's extremely important for me in being able to relay that message." 

Rob Smyth, manager of citizen services, said existing shelters downtown are too small to meet physical distancing regulations.

"We do want to have a plan in place as opposed to just shuttering the facility," Smyth told Caterina. "We do need to look at possible other venues in our city or what some other options are."

The city is meeting with the provincial government and social service agencies in Edmonton this week to come up with a new plan for the homeless population.


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