'Agencies and institutions are working well together': Coronavirus dominates Edmonton emergency planning meeting
EDMONTON -- In a Tuesday meeting that was scheduled to happen with or without a COVID-19 outbreak, discussion about Edmonton's general readiness to handle an emergency pivoted to the very real and current global concern.
A taskforce has been set up to strategize Edmonton's response if the situation grows worse.
"Alberta Health Services really guides the work that's going on… The City of Edmonton, we're doing everything we can to be prepared and support them," Adam Laughlin, interim city manager, told CTV News Edmonton.
"The risk at this point in time from Alberta Health Services is categorized as low. But our attention to this is very high."
Edmonton Police Service, which is also part of the emergency advisory committee, is readying public event protocols for things like potential NHL playoff games.
The City has restricted employee international business travel, is bolstering facility cleaning processes, and is talking about improving access to hand washing and sanitizer for homeless people.
"It's very important for people to stay calm and know that agencies and institutions are working well together here," Mayor Don Iveson said.
Edmonton is also working on a business continuity plan in the event more people are quarantined.
"Typically with an emergency situation, you're dealing with days or weeks. This could be a situation that is months," Laughlin explained.
However, the mayor considers the city to be in a resilient position.
"Our services… primarily rely on Edmontonians to serve each other. We're a very staff heavy business," he commented a day earlier.
"So really as long as people are able to continue to come to work and be out in public if we're not in a major quarantine situation, I think we can at least offer business as usual as a municipal corporation."
The city has not cancelled any events, nor has it activated its emergency operations centre.
Officials said there are four stages of response it would move through if the situation escalated.
SUPPLY SHORTAGES ON HORIZON, COUNCILLOR FEARS
While Tuesday's discussions revolved around public health, some councillors have expressed concern about COVID-19's impact on the economy and provincial budget.
Both Ward 11 Coun. Mike Nickel and Ward 3 Coun. Jon Dziadyk called on municipal and provincial leaders to be proactive.
"With the price of oil, what do we need to do going forward? Can we actually adequately base a budget on a volatile commodity? Probably not," Dziadyk said.
A drop in market prices – in response to fears a dispute between producers while the global economy is weakened by coronavirus could result in a crude oversupply – means a roughly $20 difference in current prices and those used in Alberta's Budget 2020.
Dziadyk said council would look at encouraging the province to look reanalyze its budget.
"When you look at an obvious problem, maybe it's obvious you have to start looking at solutions, too."
Nickel called on the city to look at how coronavirus was affecting supply chains that could impact Edmonton's capital projects, after hearing from labour and business leaders they were expecting shortages.
"It's everything from rebar to plastic that comes out of China. And those containers are sitting in the ports right there right now," he said.
"That's where administration has to step up because we have a billion dollars worth of capital and think about what a six-month delay might happen if we don't have supply."
To not be concerned would be foolish, he added.
"Urgency will drive a solution across the ocean, but we've got weeks here and months here we gotta talk about."
The emergency advisory committee has met or is scheduled to meet in the spring and fall of 2019 and 2020.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson and Jay Rosove