SUNDRE — The municipality, local organizations and businesses are heeding the advice of provincial health officials and also complying with government decisions relating to COVID-19, prompting widespread closures and cancellations.
As part of the overall effort to reduce the risk of the novel coronavirus’s spread, the Town of Sundre has closed recreational facilities including the Sundre Area, curling rink and community centre.
“Early last week, risk management strategies were implemented,” said Kevin Heerema, the director of emergency management, who is also Sundre’s community peace officer.
Business continuity plans have been enacted to ensure the municipality can maintain essential services, said Heerema when contacted Monday morning.
“In order to protect staff and help prevent the spread of the virus, effective 9:30 (a.m.) today we’ve closed our town-owned recreational facilities,” he said, adding the municipality is coordinating with Alberta Emergency Management, Alberta Health and local stakeholders as the situation continues to unfold.
“We are following suit with many other municipalities.”
While the municipality plans to continue conducting business, that could mean holding meetings in different ways to mitigate potential exposure, he said.
Anyone seeking to do business with the municipality but who is showing symptoms of COVID-19, or is concerned about their personal risk by coming into the office, can still call 403-638-3551 to discuss alternative arrangements, he said.
Meanwhile, Sundre’s schools remain open to staff, but Chinook’s Edge School Division has indefinitely cancelled classes. Local daycares have also been alerting parents about their own closures.
The Sundre Aquaplex has also been closed until further notice.
“We just closed today,” said manager Juele Patton on Monday morning, adding efforts will remain ongoing to provide updates on their website and social media page as they become available.
Patrons with passes that are soon set to expire will receive an extension when the indoor pool reopens, Patton said.
“We’ll definitely be honouring that.”
The Moose and Squirrel Medical Clinic has also announced new procedures, which can be found in full on its social media page.
“In order to minimize transmission of the virus and increase our ability to respond to emergencies as needed, we are reducing the number of physicians who will be working in our clinic and will be reducing our available appointments to only absolutely essential in-person visits,” reads a portion of the post.
Patients with appointments are being asked to wait in their vehicles upon arriving at the clinic, and texting reception to inform of their arrival.
Greenwood Family Physicians has implemented a strategy that is essentially the same, said Dr. Bill Ward.
“Everything is going to be telephone based,” he said, adding patients with appointments will be asked to wait in their vehicles to avoid increasing the potential risk of cross contamination in the waiting room.
“This is going to go on indefinitely,” he said.
As times goes by, procedures will be revised, but the doctor said the current approach is expected to go on for some time, potentially several months
“It’s going to be a substantial duration. This is not a short-term thing.”
The primary concern is if too many people get infected too fast. In such a scenario, health services might not be able to tolerate the sudden surge.
“We need a slow infection rate to make everybody’s potential treatment as good as possible.”
Fortunately, our sparse population density could play to our advantage, he said.
“We’re relatively isolated, most people don’t live on top of each other,” he said, adding more densely populated places like Italy are more prone to a quicker spread.
“We shouldn’t get that problem as long as we are rational about it.”
The Sundre Municipal Library has also shut its doors for the time being.
“There’s a lot of talk about how long the virus stays on surfaces,” said Anton Walker, board chair, on Monday morning.
With books coming and going in a library system that facilitates province- and nationwide transfers, Walker said, “that’s a nice vehicle for moving it around.”
Additionally, many patrons are elder citizens who are most at risk, and maintaining social distancing in the library would be difficult, he said.
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