As I'm sure many of you are feeling uncertain and anxious about the state of things right now, it is easy to be filled with fear and panic. This is perhaps best displayed by the behaviour of shoppers at grocery stores who are stocking up on items, well beyond their needs.
I encourage you all to put this initial reaction aside and consider your neighbours and fellow community members. There are many in our city who do not have the ability or means to shop beyond their current need and by hoarding and buying more than necessary, you remove their ability to provide for them and their families. The health and safety of residents and staff in our city is our number one priority and we can only see this realized if we all pitch in together.
We continue to be proactive in taking precautions to minimize the transmission of COVID-19. The closure of our recreation and culture facilities was an example of that and one that many municipalities have followed in the days since. We understand this is a drastic measure but one we feel is necessary to ensure we're doing all we can to stop the community transmission of this virus.
We're working closely with the provincial government and health authorities to action their recommendations and keep you informed. Our Emergency Coordination Centre has been activated as of last week and we have declared a State of Local Emergency. This declaration allows us to access additional resources, particularly to support our vulnerable populations. It also enables local authorities the power to execute special orders in accordance with the Emergency Management Act.
While the risk to Lethbridge residents remains low, now is the time to take firm measures to prevent further transmission. Residents are encouraged to be diligent in following the direction of health authorities. I encourage all residents to be informed and take their information from credible sources and authorities.
There is a comprehensive list of tools and resources compiled at Lethbridge.ca/COVID19 where residents can also see the latest updates from the City and our response to the pandemic. We understand the public concern around the Coronavirus and we encourage everyone to follow the messaging provided by health officials to help prevent the spread of infection. This includes both hand washing and staying home if you are not feeling well.
Self-isolation may feel extreme to some but it is necessary and the recent financial supports announced by both the provincial and federal governments will aid those who need to take these measures. As a municipality, we are committed to helping our residents where we can. Our residents have lots of questions, and the reality is that we are navigating a much different world each day. We ask that you be patient as we work out these answers for our community.
For our local business community who are anxious during this time about the impact to their businesses and livelihoods, we are working to find solutions for you. Yesterday Economic Development Lethbridge hosted a video conference with more than 30 stakeholders about the formation of a focussed "YQL Economic Recovery Task Force". The discussion included a wide range of industry groups like the Lethbridge Construction Association, representation from all three levels of government and a range of lenders.
The YQL Economic Recovery Task Force will be working to prepare a plan for recovery – coordinating resources, recommending policy changes, providing advice and creating a convenient one stop shop suite of resources for business. Recovery will take time and it will take all of us working together. If you have the ability to do so safely, please support businesses in our city in this time of crisis.
For those members of our community who are vulnerable, especially during this time, we are working to keep you safe and healthy. The City of Lethbridge has mobilized an emergency social service committee in response to the COVID-19 virus. This group is working closely with Alberta Health Services and the agencies that serve our vulnerable populations to ensure these groups have the needed housing, health care and other supports they require.
Part of this work to help our vulnerable community members includes work with an organization called Help Seeker. This group is mapping all available supports available in the city and connecting those in need with the resources that will help them. This resource can be downloaded for any smartphone and is simply named "Help Seeker" and is also available at http://helpseeker.org. They are currently asking for organizations who can help during this pandemic to reach out to them so they can be listed as a resource so we encourage you to confirm your information with them if you fall into this category.
While it may be difficult to see during this time of stress and uncertainty, this is a unique opportunity to spend time with your family. Getting back to the things that really matter like good conversation, connecting through laughter and being joyful about the small pleasures in life. Conversations have not been cancelled, spending time outdoors has not been cancelled and most importantly, hope has not been cancelled.
Hope and optimism are the reason we are practicing social distancing and self-isolation and washing our hands more than ever before. We know these things work to combat COVID-19. We are optimistic that by taking these steps we will minimize the threat to life and keep us healthier and safer.
Thinking about others and minimizing the risk to some of the most vulnerable in our population is an incredible act of kindness. If you're feeling unwell, even slightly, stay home. Hunker down and finish that puzzle or book you've been meaning to. Find time to call your family and friends who you don't often get time to connect with. Enjoy a walk in the almost-spring-like weather and focus on the simple things in life.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank those in our city who simply cannot stop and hunker down at home. To those providing essential services to our community, thank you. The hundreds of health care professionals who have been working around the clock to care for friends and family, to those stocking shelves and working long hours at grocery stores to our transit drivers helping people get where they need to go, thank you.
As the COVID-19 situation evolves and changes over the coming months, City Council will continue to be diligent in monitoring and following the recommendations of the experts and we strongly encourage you to do the same. Stay informed with credible sources, look out for your neighbours, support local businesses and organizations where you can and look after yourself.
We as a community have the power to flatten the curve and change the outcome for our city. If we act now, we can come out of this pandemic together, stronger than before.