The local reaction to the new restrictions implemented by Premier Doug Ford’s government over the past few weeks is telling. The reactions of local Mayors, the Cornwall Community Hospital, and just regular people tell the story that Ford is not giving local areas what they need to fight the pandemic.
What Ford is doing is fighting people, rather than fighting the COVID-19 virus, which is why I think you quickly saw changes to what the government announced on Friday.
On Friday the government put a ban on people using public parks and playgrounds, as well as stating that police and by-law officers could stop cars and pedestrians and question them as to why they are out of their homes.
These restrictions don’t do much to fix the problem where it actually is, in the workplace. Despite the stay-at-home order, there are still individuals who are essential and need to go into work. If they are sick however, they have to take their own sick days, if they have any, to go and get tested. Some employees do not have paid sick days however, and can’t afford to take the time off to go get tested or vaccinated.
If you look at local data in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) region 47 per cent of COVID-19 cases are caught at home, with another 40 per cent spread through the community. The majority, 55 per cent, of cases spread in the community are through schools.
Dr. Paul Roumeliotis of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) has explained that what we are seeing are cases that are caught either by someone bringing it home with them from work or school and spreading it to their family, or catching the virus at home and then spreading during the work/ school week. It is workplaces, not basketball courts and golf courses where individuals are catching the COVID-19 virus.
Restrictions announced by Doug Ford on Friday changed significantly by Monday, and that was thanks to local leaders rejecting things like closing playgrounds, and police forces not wanting to stop people randomly on the streets.
Our local Cornwall Police Service stated that they for one would not be randomly stopping people on the streets to ask why they were out of their homes. Dr. Roumeliotis also said he would be speaking with regional by-law officers after someone in Rockland was ticketed over the weekend for sitting in their driveway.
Even prior to Friday’s announcements from the province, you could already see that locally, there was a divide between where the provincial government was going with their enforcement, and what the municipalities stated that they needed.
Both the United Counties of SD&G Warden and Mayor of Cornwall released separate messages asking for more support locally for vaccinations.
Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement pointed out that Cornwall only had two pharmacies who were permitted to distribute the AstraZeneca vaccine and that at the time of writing her letter, neither had received any doses yet.
In total, the United Counties of SD&G and the City of Cornwall only have three pharmacies that are distributing the AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged 40 and older, while the neighbouring Leeds-Grenville has 22 locations, with four in the City of Brockville. Leeds-Grenville has about 60,000 fewer residents than the combine population of Cornwall and the United Counties of SD&G, so it is no wonder that the local focus is directed more on vaccines than residents who are out for a walk.
I understand the province’s focus on stopping the spread of the virus. The dirty secret of our hospital system was that it was chronically strained prior to the pandemic and now this virus has put it in a precarious situation. The Cornwall Community Hospital is the only hospital in the region with an Intensive Care Unit. Hospital CEO Jeanette Despatie told Cornwall Council that prior to the pandemic, her ICU had 11 beds, which have since been expanded to 15. As of Monday, April 19 there were nine patients in the EOHU region hospitalized with COVID-19 in the ICU. It is clear that avoiding infection is important, but like I said before, the Ford government doesn’t seem to be focused on supporting essential workers, who are the most vulnerable to coming in contact with the COVID-19 virus.
What do you think readers of Ford’s announcement on Friday, and the reaction of local officials? Email me a Letter to the Editor to email@example.com