COVID-19: Be safe but better yet stay home, local leaders tell GTA cottagers

·3 min read

Cottagers pushed to stay in bubbles, preferably at home, as COVID cases surge

Leaders in rural Southwestern Ontario communities urge residents of COVID-19 red zones and lockdown regions to take precautions before heading to cottage country or better yet, just stay home.

“There are currently no official restrictions on travel among regions. There are only the restrictions we place on ourselves as we consider the impact of our movement between and among regions of Ontario,” Joyce Lock, Southwestern Public Health’s medical officer of health, said in an email. “Please consider postponing any non-essential travel.”

Although indoor gatherings are still capped at 10 people, Lock said “the safest choice is to avoid close contact with people who don’t live with you.”

Earlier this week, Premier Doug Ford asked Ontarians to stay home for the holidays and celebrate only with those they live with.

Lock isn’t saying cottage owners have to stay home, but they should keep within their household group.

“If you have a vacation property, such as a home or cottage on Lake Erie, please go straight to your property, bringing your own groceries with you to limit time spent in local businesses,” she said.

Southwestern Public Health, which covers Oxford and Elgin counties, is currently in the orange-restrict tier of the province’s COVID-19 restriction framework, one step down from red.

As of Thursday, there were 55 active coronavirus cases in the area, 516 total cases and six deaths.

Huron County Warden Jim Ginn said he’s less worried about seasonal property owners travelling from lockdown areas to their Lake Huron cottages, and more about groups from different regions mixing for holiday gatherings.

“We don’t have concerns if they come and stay there, as long as they follow health protocols,” he said. “Kids coming home from university . . . (and) young adults coming back for Christmas at their homes, that is certainly a concern.”

Huron-Perth Public Health is also in the orange-restrict level and as of Thursday, the region had 31 active COVID-19 cases, 293 total cases and 16 deaths.

Ginn said any day-trippers coming to the area must follow public health protocols.

“We had a lot of visitors from outside over the summertime and we remained fine. Our (COVID-19) numbers were quite acceptable,” he said. “Now that we are in orange, there may not be as much of a pull as there was through the summer.”

Several regions in the province are in the red-control tier and two regions – Toronto and Peel – are in lockdown for at least three more weeks.

Huron-Perth and Southwestern health regions have both seen increases in COVID cases, which is something Elgin County Warden Dave Mennill said potential visitors should consider.

“I’m afraid that if we continue on this trend, we may be going from orange to red," he said.

Ginn hopes people heed the message to hunker down at home for the holidays.

“As much as you want to be with family, anytime there are outsiders coming into the area, it just puts everyone at risk,” he said. “Stay home at Christmas. Keep within your own bubble. You might have to sacrifice until the next holiday, but it may be well worthwhile.”

Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press