On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Darrin Canniff; Dr. David Colby, C-K medical officer of health; CAO Don Shropshire; and Lori Marshall, president of C-K Health Alliance, participated in an online question-and-answer session for the public. Here are their direct answers to the public’s most asked questions regarding school, non-COVID related health services, businesses and taxes.
EDUCATION AND DAYCARE
Q: When will students potentially be going back to school?
Colby: That’s unclear at the present time. Our premier said in a news conference yesterday that people shouldn’t count on students returning to school this school year. And I would concur with that opinion not because the premier said it, because that is my opinion as well. I didn’t think we’d be going back. I suspect this period will be extended.
If I could just very quickly elaborate on the rationale for this. I mentioned earlier that people who are elderly and have health problems are more vulnerable to having severe viral syndromes and can even die. Children on the other hand, typically have a very mild viral symptomatology and they’re still full of energy and appear to be quite healthy. But the way they play together, it’s very efficient for them to transmit the virus. They bring it home to mom and dad, aunt and uncle, grandparents. That’s where the problem is.
So stopping children from associating with each other in school and daycare is absolutely fundamental to controlling this virus in our community. And that was the first measure that we undertook.
Q: Home daycare providers need clear answers. Can we stay open or not?
Colby: We don’t know where home daycares are. And we are so busy in terms of our capacity and public health that we don’t really have the ability to find out where they are and enforce any kind of rules.
The idea that children can aggregate in close groups where they all play together is not a good idea, and we discourage it. But we have decided it is impossible to enforce that with regard to home daycares. So again, I’m asking for everyone’s co-operation in that regard.
I mentioned earlier how that works. Children that play together are very efficient at transmitting viruses. They may not appear to be sick, or just have very mild symptoms. So they pass it between. They come home, mom and dad get it, then aunt, uncle and cousins get it then grandparents get it and then great-grandparents get it.
BUSINESSES AND FINANCES
Q: What is an essential business and where can people find that complete list:
Shropshire: If you check out the provincial government’s news site or Office of the Premier, all the different essential services are being listed.
There is some interpretation being required. I know from the municipality’s standpoint we offer some services that are deemed essential, others not so as evidenced by some of the programs we’ve already cancelled due to the transmission concerns.
But the provincial government website is the best place to go to get information on which of the essential services are.
Q: Are property taxes going to be due May 1st? Will interest be waived for late payments on property taxes?
Shropshire: So we discussed this last night at the online council meeting. Right now, the number one priority is health. And the best thing people can do for the community and for themselves is to stay healthy. That’s what the focus is on. However, I didn’t mention that both elected officials and administration, particularly economic development, had been out talking to businesses and making sure that we understand what their concerns are.
There will be a report coming back to Council on April 6 and that will summarise a combination of the senior level government supports and also what we would recommend to council that the municipality can do to provide additional support and information to those people that are affected by COVID-19.
Q: What is our economic development team doing in order to help support small businesses?
Shropshire: Right now, they started by looking at the essential services that were identified with the provincial government. For example, grocery stores, they’ve been reaching out to them if they have any identified needs, and we can try and provide support. That could be supply chain, it could be getting messages out to the public about not hoarding goods like toilet paper, and so on. Just trying to get a feeling for what the challenges are in those industries.
And then they are taking that information back, we’re going to be analysing it to put together more comprehensive plan for the ongoing support.
They’ve also been providing additional messages of public health. All those messages that Dr. Colby and the public health team are putting forward, we’re making sure that that information is also shared with the business owners so that when they’re running their business, they can make sure that they’re respecting all of those requirements.
Q: Is there a shortage of stuff?
Colby: There are no shortages. We’ve looked into this at the Health Unit. The Ontario food terminal is full of food, there’s merchandise, and short-term shortages in stores are caused by people panicking and buying more than they need. That’s why it wasn’t on the shelves.
We are not experiencing shortages. We have plenty in Canada. Buy what you need. Buy what you need and no more and there’ll be plenty for everyone.
CONTINUED HOSPITAL SERVICES
Q: How do we know when we should go to the hospital if someone has a life-threatening risk? My mother has an appointment at the hospital on April 5, does she needs to rebook?
Marshall: If you have an existing appointment, then I assume that that appointment is continuing unless you’ve heard from us that we are cancelled. So we are proceeding with some things where we consider it to be an emergency, or in some instances, for example, with cancer treatment, and those sorts of things, we are continuing.
So if you’re going to be cancelled, you will hear from us.
The other thing that I would say is with respect to life-threatening, our emergency department is there for you. And that’s what the hospital is here for.
So while we anticipate that we’re going to have COVID-19 patients in the future, we also need to understand that people will still have things like heart attacks or strokes, or accidents that need immediate attention. And we’re there for you for those reasons. But certainly, the hospital is still there to be depended upon.
Q: Is there a process going into ambulatory care for infusions? Where can we find that information?
Marshall: We are continuing with some of our outpatient services, so things like our dialysis unit, ambulatory care infusions, and cancer chemotherapy unit, I would direct you to come to the front door. That’s where we’re doing all of our screenings. We’ll make sure that you’re well before you come into our unit and also make sure that everyone else around you in that unit is well before they enter. So that’s the best place to go, the front entrance of the hospital to access those services.
Q: Being that we are also in a flood risk area is work still progressing on Erie short drive?
Shropshire: Yes, it is. People are exercising the same type of social distancing guidelines we referred to while they’re doing the work. But the work on Erie Shore Drive is continuing.
One of our major challenges has been several days where we’ve had some winds from the south and that’s caused some flooding in the area and delayed some of the work. Otherwise the work has been continuing.
Q: How is the message getting to our population who may not have a computer or smartphone or the Internet?
Shropshire: This week we’ve been working with our local media folks in radio and print media to make sure that our basic public health messages have been communicated. Things like social distancing and personal hygiene are paramount importance.
We’ve also been looking at how to educate people about the services we’re delivering and how we modify services if they’d like to contact municipality. So those two things are going up those forums.
We also want to do a shout out to the media. They’ve been great in terms of trying to help reinforce the messaging we had, and making sure that their listeners or their readers had been getting the essential information they need.
Caniff: And I just want to add to that, that if you know people that are in that situation, where they may not be getting the media, please reach out to them, call them, talk to them over the phone. Let them know that the information is there if you don’t feel like you’re getting it from any other source.
Colby: I’d like to add to my thanks to the broadcast and print media. We also use social media extensively and the Health Unit website is very comprehensive, and includes links to all kinds of provincial resources. So in this information age, please make sure that your sources of information are legitimate, and not just rumours that are spread on the Internet, which is very common these days.