By Jensen, Randy on May 13, 2020.
As city businesses are poised to begin relaunching the local economy this week, the City of Lethbridge is attempting to temper great expectations with a strong dose of prudent caution.
“Many residents feel things are going to return to normal at this time,” said City of Lethbridge Director Emergency Services Marc Rathwell at a media conference on the relaunch at city hall on Tuesday. “They need to curb their expectations slightly. (Thursday) is a suggested date, and we want to make sure everything is safe for citizens and our staff.
“We need to be very cautious as we reopen,” he added. “We don’t need to have any spots or gaps where this virus can be transmitted; so it is super important we catch all those pieces before we open up a facility. Now more than ever we need to make sure folks are very diligent with the basics: handwashing and physical distancing is key so we don’t have an outbreak or a spread in our community or any other communities.”
Rathwell urged business owners and residents to go slow and make proper preparations for a safe reopening. If someone was unsure what steps they have to take to reopen their businesses safely, Rathwell said the provincial government had set up a special “Biz Connect” relaunch website and an email address where businesses could send their plans to be reviewed to ensure they were conforming to proper standards. That email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rathwell said he would also be urging local public health officials with AHS to step up their inspections on local businesses as they reopen to ensure they were complying with public health orders.
“I would expect them to do that,” Rathwell said when asked by reporters, “and that falls into their bucket.”
Rathwell said he does not see why Lethbridge cannot reopen safely if businesses and residents continued to follow all public health orders and rules related to proper social distancing and hygiene.
“It’s not a question of whether things are opening too soon, it’s whether or not people have prepared themselves adequately,” he stated.
“If you follow the guidelines, and you have built yourself a proper plan through all this, you will be fine. It’s the folks that are going to rush ahead without putting the careful thought into it and making sure the plans are in place; those are the folks that have to be very concerned. You have to take that pause and truly think about what you have set out (as a plan).”
Mayor Chris Spearman echoed Rathwell’s words of caution, and said he expected local businesses to take a slow and steady approach to reopening.
“I think we are in a good position (to relaunch), and there is a balance,” he said. “You can’t just turn on a switch at any one of these businesses where Wednesday we are closed and Thursday we are opening. I would hope there would be a bit of a lead time so they can prepare. It’s going to take some businesses a week before they can actually open, and then they are going to have to train their staff to do things differently. This is not easy, and it does take a carefully planned approach.”
Spearman also urged Lethbridge residents to make an extra effort to shop local and support smaller local businesses as they safely reopen in the community, and he hoped in unison with other communities all across the province.
“We have had no discussion with the province on that,” said Spearman when he was asked about the Kenney government’s suggestion some lesser impacted communities could possibly more quickly open than those more highly impacted. “One would hope the rules would apply to the whole province at once. I would be very cautious if we were opening up services in Lethbridge that weren’t available in another area that had been highly impacted. Residents in those areas might be highly frustrated and might come to Lethbridge. And that might cause more of a problem. So hopefully we will take a uniform (reopening) approach across the province.”
AHS is offering two virtual seminars via Zoom for businesses which might be unsure how to operate in the new post-COVID-19 economic environment. The first will take place on Thursday between 11 a.m. and noon. The second will take place on Friday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. To register at eventbrite.ca for the “AHS COVID-19 Community Conversations: Business Relaunch” sessions visit http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/ahs-covid-19-community-conversation-business-re-launch-registration-104689138030.
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