The Town of Banff has declared a State of Local Emergency to supplement measures enacted under the Provincial Public Health Emergency, to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Banff.
Following a lengthy special meeting of Town Council and a subsequent discussion with the Emergency Organization Committee, Mayor Karen Sorensen directed the Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) to implement the State of Local Emergency, effective today (November 25, 2020).
“In times of crisis, you need to take extraordinary measures - and this is certainly a dire situation for the people of Banff,” said Mayor Sorensen. “Our region – Banff and Lake Louise - has the second-highest number of cases per capita in Alberta.”
“Even though our ECC and the local health authority has been working extremely hard over the past weeks and months, the return to a State of Local Emergency gives us more strength in a time of weakness. It allows us to reallocate and focus our resources easier, be nimble in responding to rapidly changing circumstance, and it gives us powers to coordinate local organizations and assets in response to the emergency,” said Sorensen.
“This declaration will also amplify our communications to visitors and residents about the crisis in Banff. For visitors, they need to be aware of the high risk of transmission here. For residents and businesses, they need to know we are here for them, but we also need them to double-down on the measures that will stamp out COVID in Banff.”
Through bylaw mechanisms and administrative process, the following measures and actions are being implemented for the Banff town site in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19:
- Effective November 27, the following municipal facilities will be closed to public access until further notice: Town Hall, The Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre, the 101 Bear Street community space (upstairs).
- Services will be provided online, by phone or email, or by appointment for certain essential services, in order to reduce the risk of close contact and transmission in public buildings. Call 403.762.1200 for assistance.
- The Town will communicate to potential visitors in Alberta and people arriving in the community to increase awareness about the high number of positive COVID cases in Banff, the high risk of transmission, the reduced and variable services available, and the restrictions in Banff. This will include signs located at the entrances to town with relevant information such as case counts and restrictions.
- The Town will support community efforts to notify potential visitors about cancellation of events and attractions in Banff.
- Town administration will prepare a temporary bylaw for council to review and potentially finalize on Nov. 30, that could:
- limit operating hours of liquor and cannabis stores and businesses that offer counter, table and full food and beverage service
- reduce the occupant load for restaurants and bars
- This bylaw is being contemplated to reduce the potential for social gatherings in residences, guest rooms or other spaces, for individuals leaving licenced establishments; and to reduce the number of people in restaurants and bars to increase social distancing and reduce risk of transmission in a high-risk activity.
- Town administration has been directed to explore options for council’s consideration for the creation of a program that could offer assistance (financial or otherwise) to businesses that choose to reduce operations to curb-side pick-up services, online shopping or temporarily close.
- This measure is being explored in recognition of the challenges faced by operations in Banff due to staff shortages from people in isolation and/or to reduce the risk of close contact or transmission among staff and customers.
- The Town may amend its temporary mandatory mask bylaw, for review and potential finalization on Nov. 30, to expand the area where people are required to wear masks, such as the full length of Banff Avenue.
- Municipal staff will be redeployed or hired to deliver Safety Ambassador duties to enhance public education about local restrictions and once again to distribute free masks in Banff.
- Staff will be redeployed to support monitoring of compliance with provincial restrictions in public and private spaces. Once the Province of Alberta authorizes Community Peace Officers to enforce the provincial public health orders, the Town will assist in enforcement.
- The Town will develop and promote options for AHS-approved outdoor experiences that improve mental and physical well-being, while facilitating social distancing. This includes Council reviewing options for a downtown winter pedestrian zone on Bear Street and other public open spaces.
- Banff Town Council will meet with the local school board trustees to examine any issues or opportunities for collaboration to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and support students and families in the community
- Town staff are being dedicated to the Help Team which offers direct support, coordinating services or referring services to residents such as food and medical deliveries for people in isolation, mental health support, contact tracing advice, and federal aid information.
- Draft bylaws will be prepared for a public council meeting on Monday, November 30, at 1 p.m.
“We are not limited to this list of actions – some of which we need bylaws drafted so we can enact,” said Sorensen. “But the State of Local Emergency will give us flexibility in the coming days to test other actions that we have available.”
Today, Council was notified Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Medical Officers of Health are working closely with several local employers in response to recent clusters of COVID-19 cases in workplaces in the Banff area. In partnership with local Banff employers, AHS Public Health is contacting and testing potential close contacts of confirmed cases. Only those individuals identified as potentially exposed through a close contact will be contacted and tested by AHS.
Banff Town Council also learned about advancements in their call for additional isolation space in Banff. AHS has inspected and certified a new facility in a private property. Operational details are being finalized.
“Although it breaks my heart to say our community is in crisis, the State of Local Emergency will help draw attention to the need for help from the Province in terms of more local COVID testing capacity for a population with transportation challenges, and the need for expanded isolation space to address the uniquely high concentration of shared accommodation. We are seeing a response this week and we need to keep the pressure on.”
For more information, visit Banff.ca/COVID