By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Just because Premier Doug Ford has announced the possible end of COVID-19 restrictions by next April, it’s way too early to break out the balloons.
That’s the official word from Chatham-Kent medical officer of health Dr. David Colby, who said many factors must be considered before pandemic protocols are lifted.
Colby said such action is “contingent on everything settling down by that time.”
Many variables exist, Colby noted, adding it’s uncertain how the contingencies will play out.
Vaccination rates, mutations of the virus and the number of cases locally, provincially and around the world need to be considered, Colby noted.
The arrival of the Delta variant couldn’t be predicted, he added, noting the pandemic would essentially be over if society was only dealing with the original strain.
“It’s important to approach the pandemic as a global issue,” he said, adding we don’t live on an island where we can “totally control” what is happening, especially in the age of jet travel.
The province has announced it may end all COVID-19 restrictions – including the vaccine passport – by the end of March 2022.
Some health officials are expressing concern that Ford’s announcement may look like a pandemic finish line to some, and people who don’t want to get the vaccine may choose to wait it out.
Putting it off is the wrong approach, Colby noted, adding proposed timeline is not an “assured trajectory.”
While he said he would be “over joyed” if the pandemic’s end comes as Ford predicts, Colby said he doubts it will happen.
“I think we will be dealing with this in some capacity for quite a while,” he said.
In the meantime, changes to Chatham-Kent’s masking bylaw are being proposed with the issue to be discussed at the Nov. 8 council meeting.
West Kent Coun. Mark Authier is proposing that Chatham-Kent lift the bylaw requiring people to wear masks indoors.
The bylaw could be rescinded locally, however, provincial safety protocols still supersede municipal guidelines.
But on the flip side, the medical officer of health can mandate stricter rules.
And while Chatham-Kent continues to lag behind the province in vaccination rates, we’ve finally cracked the 80-per-cent mark of having eligible residents being double vaxxed.
Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire said that vaccination rates need to rise in order for Chatham-Kent to re-open safely, adding he doesn’t want to see the municipality to be held back because of that.