So much has changed since my last column. And the most recent changes are very good.
This good news is coming because we have all done our part to respect the public health advice. We have stayed home, washed our hands frequently, practiced physical distancing and we are managing to get used to wearing masks in situations where physical distancing is not possible.
And more and more people are getting tested. Testing is no longer restricted to those who show symptoms. If you have any symptoms, if you have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive, if you work in a place where you have been in contact with a lot of people, or if you have a loved one in long-term care who you will want to visit, you can get tested. To arrange a test in Huntsville, call 1-888-383-7009.
We are now encouraged to expand our social bubble from just our immediate household to a larger social circle of up to 10 people we can be in close contact with. The Minister of Health offered five tips regarding creating a social circle:
1. Start with your current circle: the people you live with;
2. If your current circle is under 10 people, you can add members to your circle;
3. Get agreement from everyone that they will join the circle;
4. Keep your social circle safe. Maintain physical distancing with anyone outside of your circle; and
5. Be true to your circle. No one should be part of more than one circle.
We can also be in gatherings of up to 10 people but if they are not members of your social circle you should maintain physical distancing of six feet and ideally these gatherings should be outdoors.
And starting soon, with very careful precautions in place, our seniors in long-term care and retirement homes and other Ontarians living in congregate care will start to be able to have visitors. Those precautions include the requirement that visitors have had a negative COVID-19 test within the two weeks prior to visiting.
These steps are a great relief to families and will be very good for everyone’s mental health.
There has also been good news for many businesses.
And this past weekend many businesses in most of Ontario including Parry Sound-Muskoka were allowed to reopen. We are allowed to have a meal on a restaurant patio. Stores in malls like Huntsville Place Mall are allowed to reopen. We can finally go get a haircut. Public pools and splash pads are allowed to reopen. Campgrounds are allowed to reopen. And more.
A week earlier, short term rentals at all resorts, cottage resorts and in private homes were allowed.
Before that, marinas and golf courses were allowed to reopen, all with public health measures in place.
Given just how important tourism is to our local economy, it is great that all these businesses have been allowed to reopen before the official start of summer later this week. However, even open, our tourism and hospitality businesses are going to face big challenges as people get used to the idea of coming out of their homes again.
Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Minister Lisa MacLeod visited our area to announce an investment of $350,000 in Explorers’ Edge, the local tourism marketing organization, to be used on local marketing. And in an effort to demonstrate that it is safe to visit local tourist attractions, enjoy a meal on a restaurant patio, and stay in our resorts, Minister MacLeod and I visited Sportsland at Santa’s Village, Trillium Resort and Spa in Port Sydney, Lake of Bays Brewing in Baysville, and joined Mayor Terziano to visit Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville and meet with the managers of the Algonquin Theatre and the Huntsville Festival of the Arts. We then met with the general manager of Deerhurst Resort and had dinner at 3 Guys and a Stove.
The point of this tour and the investment in tourism marketing is to encourage Ontarians to start to get out and rediscover their local communities. We are lucky to live in an area that normally people come from around the world to visit. But with no international visitors this year and fewer visitors from other parts of our own country and province, this is the year to get out and rediscover everything our area has to offer. Visiting local attractions is a low-risk way for your and your family to enjoy the summer, and it will be a lifeline to the local businesses that serve tourists.
I understand the science is showing that the coronavirus doesn’t transmit as easily outside. So outdoors is the place to be and what better place to enjoy the great outdoors than here in Parry Sound-Muskoka.
I encourage everyone to shop local, eat local, play local and vacation local this summer while you continue to follow all public health advice. If you are feeling unwell or are concerned you have come into contact with someone with COVID-19, get tested. Wash your hands frequently, avoid large gatherings of people, maintain physical distancing as much as possible, and when it isn’t possible, wear a non-medical mask.
Photo of MPP Norm Miller is courtesy of his office. Queen’s Park photo “June 2012 Ontario Legislature Toronto” by Priscilla Jordão, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!