C-K leaders clearly frustrated

·3 min read

After a year of seesawing through a global pandemic, Chatham-Kent’s leadership can’t figure out why people continue to flaunt the rules.

Dr. David Colby says, that at the risk of being “very repetitive,” every case of COVID-19 is the result of “a breakdown in health precautions.”

The Medical Officer of Health says the current spread of the virus stems directly from people hosting and attending indoor gatherings.

Clearly frustrated during a municipal press conference Thursday, Colby says local residents are aware of what is happening.

“They all know they are doing something wrong,” Colby says, adding perhaps some of them are members of the “flat earth society.”

However, he says defying the safeguards may be “part of the allure” for some people. “The rules are there to protect everyone,” he explains, adding he can’t believe he has to say the same thing “over and over.”

Colby says there’s no excuse for people not knowing what the safety protocols are as it has been covered extensively by media.

Plus, he says, Chatham-Kent Public Health’s website offers a “goldmine” of information, and the agency is using social media channels to spread the message as well.

From a low of 11 cases about three weeks ago ,Chatham-Kent’s COVID-19 rates have risen sharply. That resulted in more restrictions Friday when the province moved the region into the red zone on the pandemic reopening framework. That includes limits of five people gathered indoors and 25 outdoors, 50 per cent capacity or 50 people at restaurants, 50 per cent capacity for local retail stores, grocery stores at 75 per cent and restrictions on class sizes for gyms and arenas.

If numbers continue to climb, another grey zone lockdown could be on the table.

The move comes despite the fact that Chatham-Kent was number one in Canada a mere two weeks ago its rate of vaccinations per capita.

Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire says rule breakers, while a small minority, impact the physical, mental and financial health of “hundreds” of residents and business owners.

Shropshire says the deaths of nine people and the “dozens” who have lost their businesses and livelihoods should be enough to deter people from violating safety protocols.

He says the idea that people think they can gather without understanding the consequences for the entire community is “extremely frustrating.”

Shropshire says the province has asked the municipality to step up bylaw enforcement, but they simply don’t have the manpower.

“It’s like a dog chasing their tail,” he adds. “The biggest single thing we can do is try to get all of our citizens to respect the guidelines.”

Mayor Darrin Canniff, also discouraged, says the repercussions of indoor gatherings ripple through the entire community when the virus is transmitted.

“I hope this is a blip and not a trend,” Canniff says of the spike, adding the community has to continue to “come together” to fight COVID-19.

But not only are people gathering illegally, they are also being uncooperative when they test positive for the virus. Colby says people are “evasive” when questioned by public health staff, telling officials they can’t remember where they were, or whom there were with.

“Unbelievably, people are not forthcoming to investigators,” he adds.

Colby says the uptick in cases should drive home the fact that “everyone is connected” and “indoor gatherings are dangerous.”

Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Herald