Mayor’s Message on COVID-19 – March 31, 2020
A lot can happen in a week. In this message, I will try and highlight some of the actions your Council and staff have been taking.
To begin, a comparison of a few statistics from just one week ago. In Canada, the number of confirmed cases has risen from just over 2,000 to, as of 7:00am today, 7,774. Of this 7,774, Ontario now has 1,966 confirmed cases and as of Sunday, March 29th, 2 confirmed cases on Manitoulin Island.
As from the very beginning of this pandemic, your Mayor, Council and staff have all worked very hard to stay educated on the factual realities around this virus. We continue to participate in numerous conference calls and webinars, in particular those hosted by Manitoulin Health Centre for the Manitoulin Island leadership team with representatives from all Island municipalities, First Nations, and health teams. Our health experts here on Manitoulin have done an extraordinary job preparing for the potential of a major outbreak while, like all of us, hoping it never gets to that level. Your Mayor and Council are heeding their advice as are all of our neighbouring municipalities.
Another statistic: in Ontario, 10% of confirmed COVID-19 cases are health care workers! We all have a tremendous responsibility to do whatever we can to limit the potential of overloading our already-stressed medical facilities. If we have only a few of our medical staff become ill with this virus, the consequences will be serious.
As a result of a Zoom meeting announcing our local infections on March 29th, an emergency meeting of Council (also by Zoom) was held yesterday at 4:00 p.m. Some difficult decisions again were made by Council. In spite of a massive, country-wide campaign supported by all municipalities, the message of maintaining physical distance is still not being respected by some. One of, if not the biggest draws to Manitoulin Island is Bridal Veil Falls. Council has decided to close all access and parking lots associated with and nearest to the falls. In addition, all of the trails in our lower river parkland, the playground at the beach and our dog park are closed for the time-being. The length of this closure will be entirely dependent on how soon the medical professionals believe that the risk of community spread has at least been greatly diminished. [realtime update: the Province issued an emergency Order extending the provincial State of Emergency and ordering the closure of all outdoor recreational spaces: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/03/ontario-extends-emergency-declaration-to-stop-the-spread-of-covid-19.html]
The focus remains presently on containing this pandemic across this country and preventing transmission – we all have to play our part to achieve this goal.
In addition, Council has made the decision to inform the public not to come to the Kagawong River to fish smelt this spring. Likely within the next two weeks, the mouth of the Kagawong River would normally have hundreds of anglers, essentially shoulder-to-shoulder, dipping smelt. Several days ago, the province issued an emergency Order making it illegal to congregate in a group of more than 5 people, with only a few common sense exceptions. The township does own the property on both sides of the river mouth and the roads leading to it. The Manitoulin Municipal Association will be having a Zoom meeting on April 2 to discuss ideas on how to encourage our visitors and property owners who’s permanent homes are elsewhere to, at this time, NOT come to their Manitoulin properties. This, of course, is with the aim of minimizing the risk of spreading the virus further.
Dr. Theresa Tam, the Chief Public Health Office of Canada, said this today: “#StayHome and resist the urge to head to the #cottage or a rural setting, Don’t add further strain on communities with less capacity to manage”
We are heeding this advice.
Lastly, I encourage everyone to continue embracing staying at home as much as possible and follow all Public Health guidelines.
Our strength is our community. As your Mayor, and on behalf of Council and staff, we sincerely appreciate the support and encouragement that many have given us in these very stressful times.
Thank you, stay healthy,