Red Deer declared a state of local emergency Friday morning in response to the surge in COVID-19 cases and the strain on the health-care system.
The city will also adopt the provincial restrictions exemption program, that goes into effect on Monday, for all city-owned and operated recreation and culture facilities to continue providing recreation and culture opportunities.
As of Friday afternoon, the city has 680 active COVID cases, up from 495 on Sept. 10.
Mayor Tara Veer said the declaration is “absolutely an indicator that we are in a critical situation in the community.”
“As leaders we are compelled to act, and in these types of circumstances it’s far better for the public that we serve if we get ahead of the curve and act sooner before we’re passed the point of no return,” said Veer about the state of emergency which gives the city access to additional resources and special powers under the Emergency Management Act, including personnel, from other orders of government if required.
The state of local emergency will be in place up to 60 days.
She said the city’s responsibility includes looking at how the surge in local cases and capacity at the hospital affects citizens, municipal operations, ambulance wait times, vulnerable populations and agencies that serve them, as well as local businesses and their ability to provide essential services.
“The hospital in Red Deer doesn’t just serve Red Deerians. It serves the Central zone region. We need to lead by example as a city and our hope is that other communities in our region will also do their part.”
She said the city encourages its municipal partners to engage with their citizens to stop community spread, encourage those eligible to get vaccinated, and to take public health protocols seriously to protect capacity at the hospital which is at issue in the best of times.
Starting Monday, all vaccine-eligible visitors to city-owned and operated recreation and culture facilities will require proof of vaccination, medical exemption, or a negative rapid test result within 72 hours of a visit to facilities. From Sept. 20 to Oct. 25, proof of a single dose is considered acceptable as long as the dose was given more than two weeks before visiting facilities. After Oct. 25, proof of full vaccination (two doses) will be required.
“As with all of the decisions we have made through our pandemic response, this one was not made lightly or easily,” said city recreation superintendent Barb McKee.
“Ultimately, if we didn’t implement the program, we would be subject to additional restrictions that would significantly limit access and program options in our facilities. Our goal remains providing safe and accessible recreation opportunities, while also ensuring the safety and well-being of staff, customers and visitors.”
Acknowledging that not all Red Deerians may be able to immediately access their proof of vaccination, the city will allow access to facilities from Sept. 20 to Sept. 27 with verbal confirmation of vaccination.
“We recognize that not everyone will agree with this approach,” said McKee. “Our focus remains protecting the health and safety of our community in the best way that we can with the information and guidance we have today. Please remember to be kind and respectful to one another, and to our staff when you visit our facilities.”
The restrictions exemption program also applies to all leaseholder spaces within city facilities. Lease holders will be responsible for sharing these new requirements with their customers. Third-party operators (like River Bend, Bower Ponds, Heritage Ranch, Neighbourhood Activity Centres, etc.) will make their own decisions regarding their operations.
Rental permit holders for city-operated recreation and culture facilities will be responsible for sharing recreation facility requirements with their memberships and visiting teams. For organized sports, check with sport organizations for more information about specific requirements.
Information about the city’s COVID-19 response is available online at reddeer.ca/COVID-19.
Vaccination appointments are available for those looking to book their first or second dose. Details about public health guidelines and vaccination bookings are available at alberta.ca/COVID.