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Updates from Mayor Omer Moghrabi on the COVID-19 pandemic (updated April 4, 2020)

Post Date:03/25/2020 10:45 AM

Originally posted on Mayor Omer Moghrabi’s Facebook page on April 4, 2020

As Lac La Biche County adjusts to the pandemic, I’d like to update you on how COVID-19 has affected our community. The global situation has undoubtedly been tragic, but it’s not all bad news—even in these very early weeks, the pandemic has shown us how resilient and adaptable we are.

First, let’s remember to appreciate all of the incredible health care staff and emergency responders—including doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, health care aides, support staff, RCMP, peace officers, and firefighters—who have been taking personal risks and working tirelessly to keep us healthy. 

The County’s business community has shown grit and ingenuity in the face of new challenges. Many have switched to safer methods like door-to-door delivery and online ordering of their goods. Some have been sharing their service changes and new hours with #LLBCTogether on social media. I’d like to encourage all of our businesses to begin using this hashtag on their social media accounts—#LLBCTogether makes it easy for residents to find you during the pandemic.

County staff have also been working around the clock, and coming up with inventive ways to deliver essential services to residents while keeping the community safer. Many departments have switched to phone and online communication with the public. Landfills and transfer stations have stepped up their procedures to minimize physical contact. Others have set up streams on topics like childcare and mental health to keep the community connected. And, of course, the County’s COVID-19 Response Team is still keeping close tabs on the situation to ensure that the County can continue working for you even if things worsen.

Council has shifted to electronic participation. Public access to all meetings will be through Zoom or dial-in methods until further notice. The details are available on www.laclabichecounty.com, and we will remind the public on social media of these methods before this Tuesday’s meeting.

We still have a long road ahead of us. Although we are lucky to not have a confirmed local COVID-19 case (yet), we have to take the pandemic extremely seriously. Limit physical trips to grocery stores and other businesses. If you exhibit COVID-19-like symptoms or have recently returned from international travel, you must follow the Government of Alberta’s directives on self-isolation without exception. Always practice good physical distancing. We all have a part to play in limiting the spread.

In the meantime, let’s do all that we can to help our families, friends, and neighbours through this.

 

Originally posted on Mayor Omer Moghrabi’s Facebook page on March 28, 2020

Because this week has brought a lot of changes, including the closure of non-essential services to the public, I’d like to update you on how the County has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
First, I’d like to thank the public and business community for keeping Lac La Biche County safe. The vast majority of residents have taken the Government of Alberta’s public health orders seriously, and changed their shopping, hygiene, and social habits to limit the spread of COVID-19. These are important steps to protect everyone, especially the elderly and vulnerable.
 
Despite the challenges that this pandemic has posed, our businesses have shown both ingenuity and courage by finding safer ways to deliver services, even as the situation changes daily. Thank you to all businesses for doing your part to minimize the chance of COVID-19 spread in the County. It’s important to keep supporting our local economy through online or delivery services, as recommended by Alberta Health Services.
 
You have probably heard by now that the Government of Alberta is requiring all non-essential services to close to the public. Essential services (as defined here: https://www.alberta.ca/essential-services.aspx) can keep storefronts open. However, I encourage businesses to continue finding alternative ways to maintain their services through safer online or door-to-door delivery methods. Be sure to comply with all Government of Alberta requirements.
 
Second, the County has established a COVID-19 Incident Command Post with representatives from several County departments. They are meeting daily from Monday to Friday, and on call over weekends. They’ve developed strategies to ensure that the County can continue to deliver essential services to residents, even if the situation worsens.
 
This team is also in regular contact with the following government departments and agencies.

  • Alberta Health: they issue pandemic guidelines that the County follows in its operations (such as self-isolation and physical distancing).
  • Alberta Health Services: staff both at the William J. Cadzow Hospital in Lac La Biche plus provincial staff have been updating us on the progress of pandemic planning in the County.
  • Alberta Community and Social Services: we work with them on daycare and homeless shelter matters.
  • Alberta Emergency Management Agency: this is the County’s direct pipeline to the Provincial Operations Centre.
  • Alberta Justice: they govern community peace officers, especially their authorities under the current provincial state of public health emergency.
  • Alberta Municipal Affairs: this is the main governing department for municipalities. Both Council and staff contact all levels for advice regarding governance and possible grant funding.

In addition, County staff keep in touch with Alberta Environment and Parks, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, and other provincial departments daily. The County also has frequent discussions with its municipal organizations, such as the Rural Municipalities of Alberta and the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, as well as our counterparts in neighbouring municipalities. Both myself and Administration participate in province-wide conference calls with Premier Jason Kenney, provincial ministers, and Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
 
We have been working hard to respond to this pandemic, and I’d like to assure you that we are doing everything we can to protect the County and see it through this crisis. I’m proud to say that Council, Administration, our businesses, and County residents are all cooperating to keep each other safe and supported in these uncertain times. We will get through this together, and come out of this a stronger, more resilient community.

 

Originally posted on Mayor Omer Moghrabi’s Facebook page on March 25, 2020

Lac La Biche County Council held its regular meeting yesterday. Among other things, we discussed COVID-19 and its impact on our community. I’d like to update you on this topic.

First, I want to address the fact that today’s meeting was open to the public. According to the Municipal Government Act and recent guidance from Municipal Affairs, we had to keep the meeting physically open to the public. This holds true even if we stream the meetings online (which Administration is working towards).

Second, Council modified the procedural bylaw (which directs how Council runs its meetings) with changes that will expire on September 30, 2020. All members can participate in meetings electronically—this used to only be permitted if there was quorum in the meeting room (along with the CAO). Councillors used to only be permitted to participate in three electronic meetings per year, but those restrictions are lifted. In addition, councillors can now participate in closed sessions electronically.

Public input sessions are also suspended to protect the health of residents and limit exposure to COVID-19. To clarify, the public is still allowed to attend public meetings. And even in cases where all of Council calls in for a meeting, Administration will pick a physical location for the public to listen to or view the meeting as the Municipal Government Act requires. The public can still get in touch with Council by many means, including email, phone, or registered presentations/delegations to Council (which can be delivered virtually).

Third, we were updated on the current state of the County’s business community, and how we can support them during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many in the community have lost their jobs, and businesses have been hurting. We discussed upcoming Economic Development Strategy workshops, which are happening virtually on March 30. Now more than ever, we need a long-term strategy that addresses business resiliency, diversification, and innovation to help our community recover after the pandemic passes. You can find details about the upcoming workshops on www.laclabichecounty.com.

Fourth, residents can contact the County by calling 780-623-1747 to see if they qualify to remove payment penalties on unpaid waste collection, natural gas, and water/sewer bills. Residents who qualify can defer payment on certain County services. However, I want to emphasize that it’s preferable for residents to continue to pay their bills each month, unless you’re confident that you can cover the cost of several months of bills down the road. Residents will continue to receive bills each month.

I can’t stress enough that we all must treat this global pandemic with the seriousness that it deserves. Wash your hands regularly. Practice good physical distancing. Limit your trips to town, and don’t hoard goods. There is more than enough supply for everyone if we purchase what we need without panicking.

Even though we’re physically distant from one another, offer to help your neighbours. Share your resources, or offer to shop for an elderly or vulnerable resident. And above all, follow all of the guidance that Alberta Health Services and the Public Health Agency of Canada provides.

I wish you all good health as we weather this pandemic together.

 

Originally posted on Mayor Omer Moghrabi’s Facebook page on March 20, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, County staff have spent the week working to ensure that essential services continue to be delivered to our residents.

Despite the recreation building and public office closures, many County staff are still working inside of our buildings, fielding resident phone calls, conducting maintenance on the Bold Center and Portage Pool, monitoring water quality, repairing vital County equipment, and much more. Workers have created safer environments by ramping up cleaning and disinfection, practicing social distancing, and self-isolating at home if they exhibit any cold or flu-like symptoms.

I’d like to thank all County staff for stepping up—your efforts have not gone unnoticed by both Council and our citizens.

I know that this pandemic has been hard on our community, Canada, and the rest of the world. We have all made sacrifices and tough choices as we care for ourselves and our loved ones. Families have struggled to find childcare, and many in our business community have suffered significant losses. Some of us have even lost our jobs.

But I’m confident that if we listen to the science (as found on www.albertahealthservices.ca), practice good hygiene and social distancing, and comply with government restrictions, we will come out of this crisis. I wish you all the best as we adjust to this new normal, and know that Lac La Biche County as an organization is doing everything we can to support you.

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