We are well into week two of the COVID-19 virus in our community. Life as we know it has changed dramatically. We are all working to implement physical distancing to prevent this virus from spreading quickly through our community.
In less than two weeks, schools, restaurants, businesses, and leisure facilities have closed, many people are out of work, Transit has been reduced, streets are empty, and we are faced with the unknown of how this virus will affect our community and our loved ones. This is stressful and scary for so many.
Normally when responding to an emergency, it is the first responders—fire fighters, police officers, paramedics—who are first on the scene and most active in the response. When this emergency is a train derailment or a fire or an oil spill, members of the public are often simply advised to stay away from the area, and that is where their role starts and ends.
This is a different story for COVID-19.
- For COVID-19, all residents of Saskatoon have an important role to play.
- Our community can only be successful if we each take our roles seriously.
- This is a point that I cannot stress enough.
- This isn’t about any one of us individually.
- This is about how we respond as a community, each one of us together, to ensure our collective health.
While the risk this virus poses to many individuals is low, the risk to our community is much greater. When you’re taking safety precautions, you’re not just doing it for yourself—you’re also doing it for nurses, for grocery store clerks, for the elderly, for your friends, for your family, and for your community. This situation requires us to see beyond ourselves and to act for the betterment of others.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer said, “For all those already in self-isolation, we know this has been difficult and we are grateful for the sacrifice you are making to keep others safe. Right now is an extremely critical time for Canada to maintain our resolve and to get it right. We need to get this done. Let’s flatten the curve.”
We are in a phase now where all of these changes and adjustments are setting in, and the reality is we don’t know exactly how long this will continue. Your continued efforts and participation in this are so critical right now.
I want citizens to know how in awe I am of the efforts underway by the our Emergency Operations Center Team, civic administration, City Council, Police, Fire, Ambulance, health workers, community organizations, Transit Operators, and community partners and citizens in responding to this crisis.
At the City of Saskatoon, we have had four main priorities that have been a focus over the past two weeks.
- Reorganize our staffing and civic departments to ensure we are positioned to continue providing the core services that citizens rely on to live your lives.
- Respond to the Provincial Emergency Orders and implement measures such as facility closures, playground closures, changes to transit operations, and changes to civic operations to do our part to keep the public and our staff safe, and to save lives.
- Work in coordination with community partners on ensuring there are supports in place for vulnerable individuals and families as many of the existing programs and supports have been upended by the COVID-19 reality.
- Work with partners in the business community to find ways to support people losing employment and businesses facing closure, and to help prepare for an economic recovery.
We are sharing the COVID-19 experience with the whole world. But as I have said it before and I will say it again, I believe we are in one of the best communities in the world to be facing a challenge like this.
I have seen time and time again, people rising to this challenge, people willing to think outside the box and put egos and titles aside to focus on problem-solving. We will have the best outcomes if we are vigilant about addressing the challenges. But we also must use kindness and patience with each other. We will be tested and our nerves will get frayed, but the more we bring our best selves to the table, the more progress we will make.
As Mayor I am committed to working as respectfully, collaboratively, and effectively as I can, to support this shared effort. We are in this together. I hope you can find joy in the small things and that you are finding people to be your network of support in the days and weeks to come.