Council to start meeting electronically says Mayor

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne provides a COVID-19 response update in a video posted on Wednesday, April 1. -- City of Prince Albert/YouTube

Prince Albert city council will begin meeting electronically to help limit social interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting with Monday’s city council meeting.

Five council members will be in attendance while four more will dial in via teleconferencing when the city’s elected officials meet on April 6. There will be nine people total allowed in the city council chambers, with media restricted to the City Hall foyer. A maximum of three reporters will be allowed to attend.

The changes are in response to the provincial government’s 10-person cap on public gatherings.

“We’re going to look even more into improving our technology so we can do it even better and from a longer distance away,” Dionne said in a video message posted online on Wednesday. “Those are the kinds of things you respond to. When the government tells you to move, you move.”

Dionne also urged residents to avoid unnecessary travel during the pandemic. He said too many residents are travelling to the lake with their families to escape the boredom of being stuck inside. He’s concerned they could be exposing themselves or others to COVID-19.

Some northern communities, like the District of Lakeland, have already made similar requests in an attempt to halt the virus’ spread.

“Due to the COVID-19 spread in the Christopher Lake area, and having essential service providers closing due to the virus, we are asking those who choose to be spend time in the Lakeland (area) and have a primary residence elsewhere to go and stay home,” read a message posted by the Lakeland and District Fire Department on March 29. “The services in Lakeland are being overwhelmed and will get worse moving forward with companies and services being forced to close.”

Dionne echoed those sentiments on Wednesday, calling for Prince Albert residents to start “staying in your own area” to prevent further transmission.

The Mayor also advised Prince Albert Christians to not attend Easter church services this April. Dionne sympathized with those who wanted to do so, but said this year would have to be an exception.

“Celebrate it at home with a small gathering of your family, just normally in the house without guests, and enjoy Easter,” Dionne said. “If you want to listen to your services, they’ll be online, but please, do not congregate during Easter. This is our biggest holiday time and unfortunately, it has to be a quiet time, so I encourage people to stay home.”

Dionne ended his message by thanking Prince Albert businesses for voluntarily closing to help stop the virus’ spread. He promised council would try to work on a business relief package with other levels of government once the restrictions end. He did not give any details about what that relief package might look like.

“At the end of the day, there’s no rule book on a pandemic,” he said.