By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Reviewing changing provincial regulations in reaction to growing COVID-19 caseloads – and interpreting them in terms of how they apply to the Town of Cobourg – takes a lot of time, Chief Administrative Officer Tracey Vaughan said at this week’s committee-of-the-whole council meeting,
Especially when the direction keeps changing, as happened with Premier Doug Ford’s Friday announcement and subsequent backtracking on a couple of aspects over the weekend.
Vaughan expressed her thanks to everyone for their patience as the town’s Emergency Control Group undertook this process over the past few days.
“As always, we continue to be committed to working closely with all our partners and looking to see what the Town of Cobourg’s role is in the enforcement of the Stay-At-Home Order, which is extended to May 20,” she said.
There is widespread support for the backtracking Ford did on giving police forces the power to stop people they suspect of leaving home for a non-essential purpose.
“They are not stopping someone just because,” Vaughan stated.
“Maybe there are obvious reasons like large gatherings, for example.”
Saturday’s weekly anti-lockdown protest in front of Victoria Hall is a good example, she said, which Cobourg Police Service responded to by issuing four tickets for being in violation of the provincial Stay-At-Home Order.
She listed the facilities now closed, such as golf courses, soccer fields, skateboard parks, and tennis and pickleball courts.
The port-a-potties at the bus terminal and the Market Building will stay in place, and the town is also opening the restrooms at the marina building in recognition of everyone’s need to get outdoor exercise at the end of a long struggle with a formidable pandemic.
Capacity at retailers that sell essential goods is now halved to 25%, and outdoor gatherings are prohibited except with others from one’s own household (and those who live alone can be considered part of one other household).
The age eligibility for the AstraZeneca supplies at hundreds of Ontario pharmacies has been lowered to 40, and those born in 1961 or earlier can make appointments at established mass-vaccination centres through the provincial phone line and on-line portal.
Rising case numbers are forcing the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit to streamline their work processes to put more time into those clinics as well as case investigation. High-risk contacts, for example, will now be contacted by e-mail (instead of in person) and advised of quarantine and test requirements.
As of April 12, the health unit has provided initial vaccinations to 27,842 individuals and both doses to 2,210. But it does all depend on supply, and a Moderna shipment expected this week is delayed to May 5. And the weekly shipment of 5,800 doses will be reduced to 3,500.
The delays are province-wide, Vaughan said. But while some health units have had to cancel appointments, she has confidence that won’t happen locally – since the HKPR health unit does not book an appointment without a confirmed vaccine dose to back it up.
Northumberland Hills Hospital is seeing a huge surge – and as people these days tend not to seek medical attention if they can help it, the severity of their inpatients’ conditions are acute. They still have ICU capacity, but are obligated to take ICU cases from elsewhere. One of their biggest challenges is the lack of long-term-care beds that would have allowed them to discharge (and free up the beds of) patients who are no longer acutely ill but do require some attention from health-care professionals.
There had been plans to reopen Victoria Hall, but the latest developments have postponed that.
And while nonessential construction is paused, public works, infrastructure projects and residential construction can go on.
“If you have any questions, please call and ask the building department if your particular project is eligible under the current conditions,” Vaughan suggested.
“Staff can still issue permits for construction jobs deemed essential.”
Decals have been deployed to update those “can do” and “cannot do” signs in key areas.
Councillor Emily Chorley asked how people could use the playgrounds and beach. Actively, Vaughan said.
Playgrounds had been closed by Premier Ford Friday, but he reversed that move in the face of widespread pushback. Now they are open with the caveat that family groups must retain the appropriate minimum two-metre distance from each other.
“The focus on being outside is really about moving, so you will see messages about moving through these amenities – walking, biking, hiking, rollerblading,” Vaughan said.
“Walking on the beach is absolutely permissible, maintaining those physical distances, but not sunbathing or doing things that aren’t seen as active exercise or active movement.”
Mayor John Henderson announced that he and other mayors have been informed that Ford will be calling Friday at a time to be determined. While nothing is for certain, he believes the call will offer some clarification on large gatherings.
“I commend CAO Vaughan and her staff – these last few days have been worrying,” Henderson said.
“You get something going on Friday, by Saturday it changes, by Sunday it changes, and heaven knows what Monday brings.
“We are doing our very best to articulate clearly what we are dealing with. I wish I could tell you it’s clear as day at this point, but I think we have it clear as mud. I’m hoping the premier can shed more light, come this Friday.”