What a spring it has been. Just over two months ago the Ontario Government proclaimed the COVID-19 pandemic an emergency and shut down most businesses and asked us all to stay home to help flatten the curve.
It was an extraordinary move in an unprecedented situation. The last time the world faced something like this was the Spanish Flu in 1918. And the world has changed a lot since then so we really didn’t have a road map to show us the way.
With your support and your sacrifices, we have flattened the curve. We have avoided overwhelming our hospitals and we have finally started to see the number of new cases come down. First of all I want to say thank you to all of you who have stayed home, closed your businesses, become home-school teachers, and supported friends and family through this difficult time.
Thank you to our healthcare workers—doctors, nurses, personal support workers and all staff in hospitals and long-term care centres. Thank you to Dr. Gardner and his team at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit for their work in coordinating testing, tracing the contacts of every person confirmed to have COVID-19 and for communicating clearly how we can all do our part to slow the spread of this virus.
Thank you to all the other frontline workers from emergency responders to everyone working in grocery stores and pharmacies and other essential workplaces that remained open throughout this situation. Thank you to the truck drivers who keep these stores stocked and to our farmers and everyone else producing those essentials.
I also want to thank our business community and service clubs for everything they are doing to support us all. Right here in Parry Sound-Muskoka we have businesses making hand sanitizer, masks and face shields and other personal protective equipment. We have service clubs donating to our hospitals and food banks and helping our seniors and other vulnerable individuals. I know I can’t possibly list everyone who has stepped up without leaving someone off the list so I won’t try, but I want to make special mention of the Muskoka Builders’ Association which has raised more than $100,000 for our local hospitals and food banks.
Over the past weeks I have been speaking with many business owners and with our local Chambers of Commerce. Our businesses want to protect their staff and their customers from COVID-19 and they want to ensure their businesses are still here when this is over. They are nervous about what this summer season will look like. As a former owner of a seasonal tourism business, I can completely understand how they feel.
Unfortunately I am not able to tell them what they can expect, and neither can the Premier or anyone else. The government is making all decisions regarding reopening based on the medical data and the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. In late April Ontario released the Framework for Reopening the Province. There are three stages. And just yesterday we entered the first stage after seeing the case numbers consistently decrease over two weeks.
Stage one allows for some outdoor activities to resume, stores with street entrances to reopen, some services including veterinary and dog grooming services and housekeeping to start up, and most importantly, in-person counselling to resume and hospitals to start rescheduling postponed surgeries. We will have to see how loosening these restrictions changes the case numbers. If the case numbers continue to go down for at least the next two weeks, then more will open. If they go up we may have to take a step back.
Many of our local businesses were closed for two months and some still are. In order to ensure these businesses survive and continue to employ our friends and neighbours, we need to come together to support those businesses just as we have come together to support our frontline workers.
I encourage everyone to think twice before ordering from Amazon or other multinational companies. Spend that money in our communities. Shop in local stores and try to buy local products. Support our local farmers and food processors, buy from our local artists and artisans, and pick up take-out from your favourite local restaurant. And if you can, when our tourism businesses open up, please plan to use your vacation to support our local tourism operators.
In the meantime, please continue to stay home as much as possible, maintain physical distance when you do have to go out, consider wearing a face covering like a fabric mask anywhere physical distancing is difficult, wash your hands regularly, and please be kind and respectful to everyone you meet.
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.
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