By Lethbridge Herald on March 16, 2020.
The City of Lethbridge has opened its Emergency Co-ordination Centre as it prepares to ramp up its local response to COVID-19 should cases begin appearing in Lethbridge.
This announcement comes after the City ordered all local public recreation and cultural facilities closed indefinitely on Sunday.
“We want to support the intent of these closures and encourage everyone to stay home rather than visiting arenas, pools and other facilities,” explained Mayor Chris Spearman on Monday. “We understand the public concern around the coronavirus, and we encourage everyone to follow the messaging by health officials to help stop the spread of infection.”
Spearman said he was also concerned about reports of hoarding of essential supplies and food going on in the city. This kind of panic buying helps no one, he said, and makes it a lot worse particularly for those who are vulnerable or already immune-compromised due to pre-existing illness in the community.
“I would encourage people to watch out for each other,” he said. “These are challenging times, and kindness is a commodity we need to keep booming. We need to make sure people are not hoarding, that basic supplies are available to those in need and those less fortunate. Please check on your neighbours. Practise kindness and keep an eye out for the vulnerable ones in our lives. As the COVID-19 situation evolves and changes, the City will continue to be diligent in monitoring and following the recommendations of our local health authorities with Alberta Health Services, and the medical officer of health, and the World Health Organization.”
EMS and Fire Chief Marc Rathwell echoed the mayor’s remarks about remaining calm.
“We want to do this slow and methodical,” he said. “We want people to do some self-distancing from each other to try to protect ourselves, and we want to keep the curve (of instances) nice and low. It’s super important folks understand that. All these precautions we’re taking right now; it’s all about protecting the greater whole of our community and our first responders.”
Rathwell said local EMS has been dealing with an increase in calls from people with what they believe are flu-like symptoms. Rathwell stressed the importance of people referencing the AHS website and 811 Health Link self-assessment tool before attempting to call local EMS.
“The online (811) tool is a good support for folks to follow when they have questions about COVID-19, and what their exposure looks like,” he confirmed. “They are giving you very good guidelines on when to call and when not to call. And you can find all of that information on the AHS website, and you can do a self-risk assessment online. It’s a great tool.”
Rathwell said his members are used to dealing with infectious diseases and have all the tools necessary to keep ambulance first responders safe as they help those who may be facing severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest pains, get the medical help they need. Otherwise, he said, self-isolation at home is the best response, and going online to use the self-assessment tool.
On another front, city hall will remain open for regular business for now, said city manager Jody Meli, but she is encouraging people who can stay home and do their business online, rather than come in to pay bills, taxes, etc., to do so.
“We are trying to encourage the community to do social distancing, and that would include coming to city hall if you don’t need to come here,” she said.
Lethbridge County has already closed all its offices to the public and is encouraging people to do business online or drop off their cheques and correspondence in the mail drop boxes on the exterior of the building. Meli has not ruled out following suit at Lethbridge City Hall should the COVID-19 situation escalate in Lethbridge.
On Monday afternoon Alberta medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the AHS South Zone. There was no confirmation from AHS which community this case was discovered in.
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