EDMONTON -- The City of Edmonton has declared a local state of emergency in response to the growing threat of COVID-19.

The Emergency Operations Committee recommended the state of local emergency be declared for seven days, though it's likely to be extended to 14 or 21 days.

City officials are now granted additional powers to limit the spread of the coronavirus, including restricting or controlling movement within city limits. It will also allow them to address potential price gouging, allow police to enter buildings without warning and assist the city in procuring and distributing essential items.

Councillors cited the growing number of cases as well as concerns about the city's homeless population in making the decision. Many specifically mentioned using the Edmonton Expo Centre to support the city's vulnerable homeless population.

"We are living in extraordinary times and these are extraordinary measures, but these are the measures that will help us to manage and minimize the impact of this virus in our city," said Coun. Aaron Paquette, who voted in favour of calling the state of local emergency via phone. "These times can seem scary but the truth is by taking as many steps as possible now, we are actually going to flatten the curve."

The vote was unanimous, with nearly every councillor saying it was now the right thing to do.

"Our focus right now is on the vulnerable, and if we change that focus we'll come back," said Coun. Bev Esslinger.

Iveson said there were checks and balances on the powers granted by the declaration, including a mandatory decision on whether or not to renew it every seven days "so it's not open-ended."

"I think there is a clear expectation, though we must suspend certain normal civil liberties, that the officials that we normally entrust to work in the public interest will continue to serve the public interest while they wield these extraordinary powers," he said.

The province announced it would support the Expo Centre with AHS workers as it serves as an overflow shelter for homeless people who may be affected by COVID-19.

The local state of emergency can be terminated at any time by the Emergency Operation Committee.

As recently as Wednesday, council said it would not declare a state of emergency because any powers it would grant them would be superseded by the province's state of public health emergency.

The two declarations are now meant to work together in tandem toward "flattening the curve" of the pandemic, city officials said.