Community leaders in the Municipality spoke to the ongoing situation regarding COVID-19 or the coronavirus.
Their consensus is there is no indication the disease is in Wood Buffalo.
While the current risk to Albertans is low, Mayor Don Scott said the RMWB would take aggressive steps to protect its citizens.
He discussed the RMWB Council’s meeting with senior leaders in the community prior to the news conference.
“We as a Mayor and Council left that meeting feeling confident that there are good plans in place to make sure that our core services are maintained, and that we are protecting the health of our residents and our employees.”
Mayor Don Scott said plans would also involve rural communities and meet the needs of all residents within the Municipality.
Regional Fire Chief Jody Butz spoke about how residents can stay safe during this time.
While it may be a stressful time, he said this is not a time to panic.
“This is a dynamic situation that evolves and can change very quickly. Alberta Health Services remains the trusted authority and the primary information source that updates the [coronavirus].”
Butz added residents can also help prevent the spread of the virus with proper etiquette, avoid non-essential travel, and increased cleaning at public facilities.
He said “this will be a marathon”, and everyone will have a role to play in the coming weeks.
“If you are experiencing a fever, cough, or extreme tiredness, [then] stay home: Self-isolate and call 811 for instructions. We ask that you do not go to a clinic, a hospital, or do not call 911.”
Butz said residents should only call 911 for emergencies.
When asked about work camps in the region, he said discussions with industry partners continue.
“[Their] objective is to limit the spread of the virus. Each one of them has contingency or continuity plans to do exactly that.”
In alignment with preparations for COVID-19, all Regional Recreation Corporation (RRC) operated facilities will close to the public effective March 14, 2020.
RRC CEO Graig Walsh said they hope the move shows their commitment to the safety and well-being of all staff and residents.
“The RRC understands we all have a role to play in the prevention of COVID-19 spread within the region and the health of our members, guests and staff remains our top priority.”
Facilities affected by the closure include MacDonald Island Park, the Anzac Recreation Centre presented by CNOOC, and Conklin Multiplex.
Mayor Don Scott said he agrees with the closure calling it an appropriate step in a fluid situation.
As for municipal staff, CAO Annette Antoniak said preparations are underway in the RMWB.
She addressed anxiety some residents feel about the novel coronavirus.
“Understandably, there is a lot of anxiety in the community as we hear about the impact of COVID-19. I want to assure the public is well positioned to address this pandemic.”
She said the RMWB is in constant contact with health authorities, and they stress preventative behaviour with municipal staff.
They would also implement continuity plans within their departments to continue providing core services.
Antoniak said, for example, garbage pickup would continue, but they may relocate recycling depots.
Another service residents require is the Wood Buffalo Food Bank (WBFB).
Multiple reports suggested there was a shortage of food at their facility.
Mayor Don Scott responded that to his knowledge the RMWB did not receive a request from the WBFB.
He added his office and the Municipality would hear requests from organizations in need of support.
“To residents: Please do not panic. You have a Municipality that is going to take an aggressive approach to this. People are concerned, and it makes perfect sense to be concerned, but we want to make sure that people are also confident that their government is taking appropriate steps.”
RMWB Council will receive at least weekly updates from health officials and local emergency leaders.
Health tips for employers are also available on the MyMcMurray website.