The face of Red Deer’s emergency management team has left the city as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, mostly among the unvaccinated.
Karen Mann, whose calm presence was front and centre at most state of emergency news conferences held by the City of Red Deer earlier in the pandemic, has taken a new job in Edmonton.
According to Mann’s Twitter feed earlier this week, she has packed up for new adventures in the big city — leaving a gap in Red Deer, where cases of COVID have grown to 368 active cases by mid-week.
Ken McMullen, director of emergency management for the City of Red Deer, said on Thursday that a job posting will soon be ready to fill the vacancy left by Mann.
He expects to have a new emergency management co-ordinator in place within 30 days, if hired internally, or up to 60 days, if someone from outside Red Deer is hired.
Mann did a “great job and left us in good stead,” said McMullen, who feels Red Deerians will not be left in the lurch since her position officially fell under his own.
He added somebody is now acting in her former position and other staff are in place to react to any emergencies that could arise.
The City of Red Deer is also in the process of hiring another city manager since Allan Seabrooke retired in May after two years in the job.
While cases of COVID-19, fuelled by the Delta variant, continue to climb in the city, and Alberta has the highest per capita caseload in the country, the City of Red Deer is not currently in a local state of emergency.
This was lifted on June 14, following a loosening of provincial restrictions, after being in place for three months. At the time, Mayor Tara Veer spoke of a “recovery” as active cases were on their way down.
Although that’s no longer the case and some doctors have already been speaking out about overcapacity issues at the hospital, McMullen said there’s no official threshold that would automatically cause a state of emergency to be enacted once again.
It depends on the impact on health care and other local systems, said McMullen. “It’s up to City Council to have that debate… We will keep monitoring the systems.”
Also being watched is what will happen once the downtown Safe Harbour temporary homeless shelter closes at the end of September, as was ordered by council in reaction to business concerns about loitering and crime.
A meeting between the city, police, social service agencies, and the Downtown Business Association is planned for next week to brainstorm for potential solutions.
The City of Red Deer’s general manager of community services, Sarah Tittemore said in July that another state of emergency could be called if the shelter’s closure is found to be endangering vulnerable Red Deerians.
Note: This headline was updated to better reflect the story.