BRUCE COUNTY – It was all good news from Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health (MOH), when he gave his regular update on the COVID-19 situation to Bruce County council on June 3.
His update was concise and positive.
“The situation in Bruce and Grey counties is very positive,” he said.
This area is seeing fewer than five new cases daily, and the number of active cases, as of the date of the meeting, was 13.
The situation elsewhere isn’t as good – area hospitals continue to accept COVID-19 patients from other areas.
The number of Grey-Bruce residents who have received at least one dose of vaccine is 100,000, which is “very consistent” with the rest of the province, said the MOH.
“We’re getting our share of vaccine.”
At present, public health is focusing on two points – the reopening, and the recovery phase – when the declared emergency is over.
Council members were pleased at the news, but less pleased at the province’s decision not to reopen schools.
County Coun. Luke Charbonneau, mayor of Saugeen Shores, commented, “That’s good news; it’s great to hear. But last week you said you would support schools reopening. I’m disappointed the province decided not to reopen them.”
Charbonneau made reference to the mental health of children being at risk and asked Arra for his thoughts on the matter.
“This seems hard to accept,” he said.
Arra responded by saying the school system is essential for the social well-being of children and opening for a few weeks would have been beneficial.
“We have been ready,” he said.
But he added that he has “every confidence in the provincial decision.” He explained the province is looking at the situation from the point of view of a lot of different variables.
“It’s not the province causing the problems,” he said. “It’s the pandemic.”
Charbonneau reiterated that children would be safe going back to school, and there are “a lot of good arguments for opening schools.” He expressed the hope for “a more normal summer – businesses are really hurting.”
County Coun. Chris Peabody, mayor of Brockton, said he agreed with Charbonneau about the province discarding the regional approach.
“We have the second-best epidemiology in the province,” he said, noting the “disproportionate effect the pandemic has had on young working women; a lot of moms run businesses.”
Peabody asked Arra about personal services workers such as hairdressers, who have been hit especially hard by the continued lockdown, and if they could work outside.
Arra noted the decision about which businesses can open and when remains with the province.
“We recognize the hardship,” he said, “but the risk of transmission is higher because of the personal contact. The regulation is clear.”
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times