Calgary declares local state of emergency due to COVID-19, prompting libraries, rec centres to close

The City of Calgary announced a local state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday night.

The city said all recreation centres and libraries would be closed immediately.

It said facility capacity at other places should be restricted to less than 250 people or 50 per cent as approved by the Calgary Fire Department.

The city recommended that businesses make as many employees as possible work from home.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi called it “heartbreaking” to close libraries but said it is an “intentional overreaction” as Alberta potentially sees its first community transmission COVID-19 cases.

“This is tough,” he said. “People rely on these services as an outlet for themselves as places to go. For many people, they are, in fact, lifelines. But given the announcement today about the closure of schools, we will not have the capacity to keep people safe in these facilities.”

Nenshi said the city is not closing restaurants or bars but is adding provisions. Grocery stores, big box stores, airports, shopping malls and pharmacies will remain open. Nenshi reminded people not to hoard supplies.

Casinos are exempt from the emergency declaration. It would be a directive by the province, not the city, according to the Calgary Emergency Management Agency.

CEMA said city services are still functioning, so there is no need to panic.

“Let me be clear: your water will keep running and your power will stay on. Transit will keep operating and if you have an emergency, you can still call 911 for help from fire, police and ambulance,” said CEMA director Tom Sampson.

“While it can seem extreme to have places we know and love closed down, this is in line with the actions that other regions who have had success containing COVID-19. Strong measures now mean we get ahead of this before it becomes very problematic, like we have seen in other cities and countries.”

Nenshi added Monday’s council meeting will be split, with half of the councillors phoning in to ensure social distancing.

List of closures