Last updated at 5:55 p.m.
The City of Prince Albert plans to keep all public facilities open during the Coronavirus outbreak, leaving it up to local residents and organizing committees to decide whether their events should be cancelled.
The city made the announcement Friday afternoon following meetings with its emergency response team.
According to a city press release, employees will take “appropriate precautions as needed” to make sure those facilities remain clean and safe. However, the city encouraged organizers and participants to consult Government of Canada and Saskatchewan Health Association guidelines before deciding whether or not to go ahead with an event.
“At this time all City of Prince Albert public facilities remain open,” reads a city press release. “The City will be taking appropriate precautions as needed, which may include additional cleaning requirements and assessment programs and provision of services.”
City officials maintain that the risk of acquiring COVID-19 in Prince Albert remains low. However, they also say the situation is changing quickly, and urged residents to follow all Saskatchewan Health Authority recommendations. That includes things like washing your hands frequently, coughing or sneezing into your arm, and staying home if sick.
“The City of Prince Albert is monitoring the situation closely with emergency operations staff and City Council and will be referring to the City of Prince Albert’s Pandemic Plan for guidance on next steps,” reads a city press release. “At this stage, the City of Prince Albert is focusing on informing our staff and planning for future measures should the situation worsen.”
Prince Albert fire chief Kris Olsen said it’s “business as usual” for people using public facilities, but staff have been instructed to step up their cleaning schedule.
“This is all precautionary. We’re following the direction of Saskatchewan Health and Health Canada,” Olsen said during a media briefing at City Hall. “Those are high contact areas we’re cleaning on a daily basis. Currently our managers are sitting down throughout all the departments with their staff, and they’re explaining to their staff the importance of that.”
Olsen said the city’s emergency response team could reverse its decision and close city facilities if they receive new information from provincial or federal health authorities. He also stressed that Prince Albert has no confirmed COVID-19 cases at this time.
Residents looking for more information about COVID-19 can visit www.saskatchewan.ca/coronavirus.
Fire department prepared for Coronavirus says chief
Four members of the Saskatoon Fire Department are under precautionary quarantine after responding to a medical call on Wednesday, but fortunately those problems haven’t hit Prince Albert.
Olsen said they the lack of cases means they haven’t had to quarantine anyone. The department is monitoring the situation closely, however, and have a contingency plan in place should any city firefighters have to go into isolation.
“If we have a contact situation, we’d have to reassess the services that we provide to the citizens of Prince Albert,” he said on Friday. “Then we’d identify what the initial high needs are versus the low needs. It may require moving some staff around to fill in those voids, but at the end of the day, our goal is to provide a high level of service for the citizens of Prince Albert.”
“The health of our staff is paramount,” he added. “We’re putting a plan into place and our main objective is to ensure that the priority services of the city are upheld and we continue to provide that in the event things escalate and move forward with the pandemic.”
The Prince Albert Fire Department already has a number of mutual aid agreements in place with neighbouring communities and rural municipalities. Olsen said they’re prepared to draw on them if they have to.