LONDON, ONT. -- London’s acting mayor is not willing to declare a local “state of emergency” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it is important that we declare that when it is actually necessary, when we have been notified by the public health authorities that that's the situation we are in,” explains Acting Mayor Jesse Helmer.

Meanwhile, city hall’s ‘COVID-19 Team,’ made up of municipal staff, is working out of the Emergency Operations Centre in Byron.

“That is essentially an internal staff meeting that happens to be at the Emergency Operations Centre, a significant place to have that kind of thing happen, its set up for this kind of situation.”

Helmer says if he declares a state of emergency, a broad-based group including police and other emergency responders would require the space to coordinate their response.

On Sunday, the mayor of Calgary declared a local state of emergency to combat COVID-19.

Duct tape helps keep city hall open

Despite a long list of municipal service changes announced on Saturday in response to the pandemic, the doors of city hall remain open to the public.

But while most business continues at city hall, it is anything but ‘business as usual.’

Warning signs greet the public in the lobby, asking them to keep a one metre distance from staff. Duct tape stuck to the floor indicates the safe distance people are to stay from the main reception desk.

“Everybody was making sure they have a safe space - a metre,” says Daniel Navarro, who was at city hall to get a marriage license with his fiancé Lida Cano. “As well, a sanitation station was there, so that was very good.”

Some committee rooms were locked Monday, others sat dark, after non-essential meetings were postponed.

City hall has also closed community centres, cancelled March Break day camps and stopped recreation programming reduce close contact between Londoners.

Helmer says “The idea is to really minimize harm, for the community overall, and our employees.”

CUPE Local 101, which represents municipal inside workers, posted a message on its website suggesting that up to 30 per cent of its members will experience a challenge finding child care coverage for their school-aged children.

So far Helmer says staffing levels remain sufficient, “I know City Manager Lynn Livingston is working closely with her staff team to see where people will be away to make sure all the critical functions are covered, and so far things look good.”

Next week’s council meeting remains scheduled for four o’clock on Tuesday. Helmer suggests fewer staff may be required to attend the meeting, and people in council chambers may be spaced farther apart.

That decision has yet to be finalized.