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Innisfail declares local state of emergency

Town has additional authority to enforce restrictions and closures
downtown innisfail-2
Empty streets in downtown Innisfail on March 19. The town declared a state of local emergency on March 20. The move gives the town additional authority to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Noel West/MVP photo

INNISFAIL – The town is now in a state of local emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

That declaration was made on Friday, March 20 and put in effect as of 2:50 p.m. The town, through its newly established Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC), had been considering this move all week, and today's announcement follows similar declarations of several other communities, including the cities of Calgary, Red Deer, Airdrie, Leduc, Chestermere and even the Village of Delburne.

The move to a state of local emergency gives municipalities the power under the provincial Emergency Management Act to access any needed resources to address a potential outbreak within the community. It also gives the municipality the authority to enforce additional restrictions and closures as required to contain the spread of the virus.

"Given what we're seeing around the globe and now closer to home it is of critical importance to have safeguards in place to ensure our citizens remain well protected and have continued access to vital municipal services at this time," said Town of Innisfail Mayor Jim Romane in a news release. "While the ongoing situation continues to affect us all we appreciate the efforts Innisfailians have made to protect both themselves and their neighbours, and as a municipality will continue to demonstrate the same level of commitment toward the care and well being of our community."

To date, Alberta Health Services has not confirmed any cases of COVID-19 in Innisfail. However, the government agency noted on its website the provincewide risk of exposure "may increase in the coming weeks."

“I cannot emphasize enough how serious this is,” said Coun. Jean Barclay earlier this week. “Everybody in the community needs to be paying attention and doing what is asked of them and following the protocols that have been put in place.”

Before today's declaration the town had already taken serious measures to deal with the pandemic. On March 16, all town recreational facilities were closed to the public until further notice. That included the Innisfail Arena, the Innisfail Aquatic Centre, the Library Learning Centre and the school gym space — and the programs/events scheduled to take place within them.

The following day the town administration office was shut down to coincide with the province’s declaration to move into a state of public emergency. With the town office closure the town moved into a Level 4 of emergency readiness.

On March 16, administration presented town council with a 27-page pandemic plan, which outlined the course and options ahead for the town.