By Lethbridge Herald on May 1, 2020.
The City of Lethbridge is welcoming the province’s announcement that it intends to begin the process of relaunching Alberta’s economy this month.
And while there is a spirit of renewed optimism that we have reached this point, said Mayor Chris Spearman, that optimism must be tempered with continued caution to prevent a second potential wave of COVID-19.
“We know (Thursday’s) announcement was welcome news for residents, business owners and employees who have been impacted by COVID-19,” he said. “We understand the hardships and stress this has put on everyone. But as Premier Kenney and Dr. Hinshaw reiterated (Thursday), we are not out of the woods yet. We have a lot to be hopeful and optimistic about in the City of Lethbridge, and in the areas around Lethbridge. We have barely been affected. I think we are at 13 cases with 10 recovered in the city. I think that is phenomenal, and that’s due to all our collective efforts. We need to continue to maintain that so our prospects for continuing to go forward at the most effective pace continue. The last thing we need is a major setback.”
It was actually announced by AHS later in the day, after the mayor’s press conference, that there were four new active cases in Lethbridge as of Friday, highlighting Spearman’s comments about the need to ensure Lethbridge residents are continuing to maintain proper social distancing, proper physical distancing and good hand sanitation even as some businesses are allowed to reopen.
Co-Director of Emergency Management Greg Adair explained Friday the province has a four-stage plan for the gradual opening the economy, but stresses nowhere in the first three stages of that plan does it say there will be fewer restrictions on mass gatherings of over 15 people this summer, or any easing of physical distancing to less than the current two-metre requirements.
“I know we are all anxious to get our lives back to normal, but we have to ensure we still adhere to the restrictions that will be placed upon us all for some time to come,” Adair stated.
Adair confirmed local golf courses would be allowed to open today, but he did not yet have answers about any other recreational activities in the city.
“If you are a golfer this is wonderful news: golf courses will be opened as early as (this) morning,” he said. “We have also had a lot of questions about things like our community gardens, our basketball courts, outdoor pools and other facilities. We are trying to seek those clarity questions from Alberta Health Services, and where those align with the strategy (the province) has put forward. We will be reporting back to you as soon as we have those answers.”
Spearman acknowledged even as businesses are allowed to reopen in the city the local economic recovery would likely be slow, and city council would still be looking for ways to help business owners get up and running again.
“We will be looking at options and we have to keep in mind that this has been a very difficult year for businesses and citizens,” he said. “Losing two months of revenue is a big hit. The key thing we heard from the Economic Recovery Task Force that is being led by Economic Development Lethbridge and the Chamber of Commerce is somewhere between 25 per cent and one-third of businesses may not recover. That’s a serious issue. Those represent employment, and those businesses are key to our economic recovery in Lethbridge. We need to make sure we give them every opportunity to survive.”
Spearman also encouraged any local residents who were able to help add some personal stimulus to the economy.
“I have already made a commitment to a local contractor to replace the siding on my house,” explained Spearman by way of example. “My house is close to 40 years old, and it needs some maintenance. And I am going to be considering hiring another local contractor to look at my gardening and landscaping.”
Spearman said there were also other ways for local residents of any means to help stimulate the local economy and keep the city healthy through the months ahead.
“As we look to reopen, we need to continue to support our community,” he stated. “Some ways we can do this is shopping local wherever possible, volunteering through Volunteer Lethbridge, making sure we take care of our mental and physical health, and most importantly staying positive as we look ahead to the next steps.”
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