‘Business as usual’: Lethbridge first responders face COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has not reportedly hindered Lethbridge’s emergency services just yet.

Insp. Jason Walper with the Lethbridge Police Service said some officers are in self-isolation due to travel, or contact with members of the public, but the impact of COVID-19 has actually decreased slightly the number of calls for service.

He said plans are in the works to enforce social distancing.

“In an abnormal environment, we are business as usual,” Walper said Friday.

“We will continue to respond and will continue to deal with that. We are working with our provincial partners right now to see exactly what our enforcement strategies will look like. There’s still a little work to be done before we can just roll out and go so we’re working on that daily and hopefully over the next couple days will have our enforcement strategy in place.”

Volunteer programs like The Watch have now been put on hold.

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“All volunteers have, in essence, been suspended,” Walper said.

“Just for their own safety and community safety.”

Other Lethbridge first response teams that are also on the front lines are experiencing fewer available staff.

Fifteen per cent of Lethbridge’s regular fire and emergency services staff is in isolation due to travel or contact with potential cases,” ccording to Greg Adair, deputy chief of strategic services.With regular illness absences added to that, Lethbridge fire and EMS staff is down 25 per cent, he said.

“Even with numbers of 25 per cent, we’ve still been able to man all of our fire apparatus and our ambulances, and been able to respond to every emergency that we are called for assistance on,” Adair said.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the South Zone is significantly lower than elsewhere in the province, but that could change at any time.

“Do we have plans in place should those numbers increase? Yes,” Adair said.

“We have been working through those scenarios and we’ve been talking about and planning for those pieces. We’re hoping through proper social distancing we will not have to implement those plans.”

First responders in the Lethbridge area are adamant that people do what they cannot, and stay home.

“We are urging the public to listen to the public health orders, listen to what’s being directed from our local municipality, stay home self-isolate,” Walper said.

“Do what you’re being asked by the province so that we don’t have to step in and enforce those.”

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