By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Chatham-Kent officials are doing everything they can to stop the spread of COVID-19 but residents breaking the rules are making it difficult to keep the numbers low, officials say.
On Thursday morning, CK Public Health reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 recoveries, bringing the active total up to 78, promoting the medical officer of health to state that Grey Lockdown Zone is “definitely on the table.”
The majority of new cases are being traced back to large indoor gatherings. Three of the recent cases can be traced to institutional outbreaks.
Dr. David Colby, said residents have no excuse when it comes to large gatherings and would ask those who think it is okay to gather in large groups “if they’re also members of the Flat Earth Society”. He also noted that CK Public Health has reached out to the public through conventional media, social media, and has posted “a goldmine of information” on its own website, leaving little excuse for the public not to follow regulations.
“But if some people choose to put their head in the sand… then I can’t do anything. People should know after a year that indoor gatherings are dangerous, not just for you, but for all of your contacts,” he said. “I don’t believe that the people who were doing this, did not know that they were doing something forbidden.”
A Grey Zone restriction will have severe impacts on small community business owners who previously told The Chatham Voice that they may not survive a third lockdown.
“We’re in this as a community and when few community members go off and do this, it has repercussions right across the community,” said Mayor Darrin Canniff. “It’s very unfortunate that small business is going to be impacted from decisions people have made to have these parties and spread (COVID) across.”
Don Shropshire, Chatham-Kent’s CAO, said residents should think of the nine people who lost their lives to the pandemic in the past year, and the businesses who have lost their livelihood before they make the decision to gather.
“That’s certainly my frustration and the idea is that people think they can do that without understanding it as a consequence for our entire community. That’s extremely frustrating,” he said.
Shropshire said Ontario’s municipalities have been asked by the Solicitor General’s office to double down on its bylaw enforcement but there is simply not enough personnel to patrol the entire community.
“It’s like a dog chasing their tail,” he said. “The biggest single thing we can do is try to get all of our citizens to respect what the guidelines are being requested of them.”
To date, Chatham-Kent has vaccinated more than 15,000 residents with their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Colby said that is not yet enough people to reach herd immunity.