First off, I want to acknowledge the success of our response to COVID-19 to date in the Valley. With the strong support of Council, our Drumheller Emergency Management Agency lead by our Director Emergency Management, Darwin Durnie, our CAO Darryl Drohomerski,the Town staff, contractors,and YOU our residents who supported us, we are proud to say we have had zero reported cases of COVID 19 to date as updated by the Chief Medical Officer of Health on June 8, 2020.
This Valley belongs to all of us and when we watched the reports from around the world, we knew how important it was to protect those we love. As I’ve said throughout our response, how do you put a price on life? We did what was required to look after the residents and businesses in the Valley.
I want to share just a few highlights that came out of COVID-19:
- 80 days without a reported COVID-19 case
- Enhanced salvation army food hamper accessibility
- Equipped Emergency Operations Centre
- Increased on-line services available on website
- On Line permits and licensing now available
- Electronic Payroll Process
- On-line payments now accepted
- Audio and Visual upgrades in the EOC and Council Chambers
- Added Security Cameras and alarms in town facilities-Improved internal communication tools for staff
- Incident Command System training for staff-And many more
The Town of Drumheller faced an enormous challenge as we responded to this global pandemic. There were no rule books written for this type of crisis. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to offer some insight into the decision-making process
First things first, the actions taken,and subsequent plans moving forward, will protect our community not only today,but also in the future. I am confident that the work completed so far puts us in a position to be stronger in the event of future emergencies.
Upon learning the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared a global pandemic, we moved quickly and activated the Drumheller Emergency Management Agency (DEMA)and appointed Darwin Durnie, who has vast experience in crisis management,as the Director Emergency Management (DEM). This role is entrusted with decision-making throughout a crisis,to ensure effective communication and rapid reactions to guidelines set forward by governing bodies, including the Provincial and Federal Government.
The DEM and the DEMA worked collaboratively at unprecedented levels of speed to ensure that with each new development, the appropriate response and action was taken. Safety protocols such as physical distancing, hand washing, and staying home were communicated and swiftly adopted. Initiatives such as installing physical barriers to protect essential business owners, staff, and customers,were rolled out, as was the ongoing cleaning and disinfection of surfaces that the public accessed regularly.
Shortly after DEMA was activated, a State of Local Emergency (SOLE) was declared in response to the COVID-19pandemic. Although the State of Local Emergency has now ended, it allowed us to take action and to pivot quickly in response to federal and provincial guidelines and to stay vigilant in the event of a second wave.
Drumheller needed to balance a set of unique challenges when facing the COVID-19 crisis. As the third most visited tourist destination in Alberta, we needed to ensure our town would be considered safe not only for residents but also for the visitors we open our doors to each year.
Our older population demographic put us at a significantly higher risk of transmission and infection,and a federal penitentiary, who could not maintain social distancing,and have employees who reside in large urban centers, created an extra risk, if an outbreak were to occur at that facility.
We had to be diligent, our first and foremost priority was to protect our citizens in the face of this pandemic and to do everything we could to keep our exposure and transmission risk as low as possible. Our high number of visitors is how we keep our local businesses open and thriving year-round. Once safety measures were established, we focused on making sure our economic future was stabilized and sustainable by establishing an economic recovery task force.We partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and provided coaches to assist our businesses in making a plan to ensure they could welcome visitors back with confidence, once it was safe to do so.
On June 1, 2020,Council cancelled the State of Local Emergency (SOLE). Since then, administration has calculated the total investment for the COVID 19 Response Plan during the SOLE period and it has amounted to $192.00per person or a total of $1,541,700.00.Much of the money spent has long term benefits. I am pleased to announce Council kept our earlier commitment not to pass along the cost of the COVID-19 response through any additional 2020 tax increases to our residents. Further, Council is committed to lobby all orders of government for disaster relief funding to reimburse what was spent.
I am so proud to say we are at80 days with no cases in the Valley. This was exceptional work by all those involved. I am proud of our successes to date, but I hope to never see another pandemic of this magnitude in my lifetime.
Great learning has come from this, it is something we have not seen in Drumheller since the Spanish Flu. This experience has been transformative in how we prepare for future emergencies and Council understands that our work is not yet done with this pandemic.
As with any crisis, we can never know the outcomes we prevented.
We will, however, always learn and grow with each challenge we face and will always seek the best solutions. Right now, we are focused on the success of having zero cases of COVID-19 to date in the valley and will continue to work hard to protect our community in the future.
We remain invested in our community’s health, safety, and future prosperity in the days ahead and are grateful for the people of Drumheller for their strength, resilience, and adaptability.
We must stay vigilant and committed to social distancing, cleaning, sanitizing and all other protocols. We are not out of the woods yet; we will continue to monitor the possibility of a second wave and keep you informed.
We understand this crisis has had an immense impact on families and businesses across our community, and we are thankful for your commitment to keep our valley safe.
We are in this together.
Please take care of yourself and stay safe!