Edmonton and Vancouver closed libraries and recreation centres and urged businesses to take voluntary steps to keep patrons apart, but neither city went as far as Calgary’s declaration of a state of emergency.
Cities, social-service operations and businesses throughout Western Canada juggled tough decisions, issuing a mix of announcements about what is open and closed and what precautions should be taken.
In Calgary, Mayor Naheed Nenshi declared a state of emergency Sunday night and ordered all restaurants and bars to operate at half capacity.
But Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said the preference was to ask for businesses to take voluntary steps to keep patrons apart.
“Response is escalating appropriately to what’s happening in each context,” Mr. Iveson said. “I defer to the public-health folks who’ve seen the latest information, and we’re trying really hard not to second-guess.”
Vancouver urged, but did not require, people and business operators to plan for a metre of separation between customers in restaurants and bars, as well as limiting any crowds to fewer than 50 people.
“I’m asking people to think about going out. If you don’t think you can keep one metre or more away in your favourite bar, don’t go,” Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said.
Mr. Stewart said everything is fluid and could change but Vancouver didn’t see the need yet to declare an emergency, which would give the city the power to commandeer hotels, if needed, for example.
Vancouver’s milder precautions have been met with sharp criticism from the restaurant industry itself. A large group of industry representatives and business organizations called on the city Monday to simply shut the industry down, for both the sake of safety and to ensure that everyone is doing the same thing.
“When will the decision to remain open be taken out of our hands, so that we are all on an even ground, and breaks on taxes, rents et cetera can begin?” said Amber Bruce, the general manager of the Keefer Bar, which was closed as of Sunday.
The owners of several other Vancouver spots have also decided to close for the safety of staff and because business has plunged, including everything from the high-end L’Abattoir in Gastown to Fets Whisky Kitchen on Commercial Drive.
Vancouver’s abrupt decision to close libraries was met with dismay by many patrons, especially at the central branch downtown, which is relied on by many older people living in apartments in the West End, families from the nearby developments, and homeless people or those living in shelters and hotels in the Downtown Eastside.
“I don’t come here to sleep. I come to read. It keeps me from using drugs. It’s brutal,” said Steven Letts, a 65-year-old man who lives at a nearby residential hotel, waving his hands encased in blue medical gloves as he talked.
The City of Vancouver has said it will keep three significant community centres in the Downtown Eastside operational.
But the mayor said all other community centres, pools, skating rinks and organized sports on public fields will end. He said staff will be used to help out with emergency needs in the city, although he wasn’t specific about what those would be.
Licensed daycares and Park Board spring-break camp programs will continue to operate.
West Vancouver, in a part of the city close to where there has been a cluster of infections, announced Friday it was closing civic facilities as of Saturday. Numerous others, from Edmonton to Regina and Saskatoon to Surrey, B.C., announced over the weekend they were closing almost all civic facilities Monday.
But none of those measures has been as extreme as in Calgary, with the state of emergency and order about restaurant capacity. Mayors in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles are ordering restaurants and bars to close except for take-out and delivery.
Mr. Nenshi, in declaring the state of emergency, ordered all city-owned-and-operated fitness facilities and pools, as well as public libraries, to close.
The move gives Calgary the power to ensure that businesses and restaurants reduce by half their normal capacity, to a maximum of 250. The order doesn’t include grocery stores, airports, shopping centres, pharmacies and casinos.
“This is very, very serious. We will get more cases. We will get more community transmission,” Mr. Nenshi said at the news conference.
“What we need to do is not panic, not stockpile, but be prepared and be thoughtful about what we’re doing moving forward.”
With a report from The Canadian Press
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