Chatham-Kent’s mayor says he’s “pleasantly surprised” with how the first weekend of reopening went in town.
No tickets were handed out as Ontario entered the first phase of easing lockdown restrictions. Patios were able to open with limited amounts of people per table, non-essential retail could allow some people back in stores and outdoor gathering sizes could be increased.
“We’re really headed in the right direction in terms of helping with the mental health of the community. We need this, we’ve all been impacted in some way from a mental perspective and the fog is starting to lift,” says Mayor Darren Caniff.
“We celebrated for the last 15 months that the vast majority of people living in Chatham-Kent have been really respectful of what public health authorities have been asking them to do. Everything from learning how to handwash properly to masks and social distancing. I think the numbers are really reflective of that,” says CAO Don Shropshire.
Monday, Chatham-Kent had vaccinated 63,751 residents and 20,966 people had both doses. There’s 68 per cent of the population aged 12 and up with one shot and 22 per cent with full protection.
There’s currently seven active cases in the municipality and just one local resident in hospital. Ontario recorded 270 new COVID cases June 21, the fewest in more than nine months.
“The numbers are improving tremendously. The seven day indices have all improved by about 20 to 30 per cent across Ontario. This is very good news,” says Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby.
He says if this pace is maintained, by the end of summer, “We would largely be able to return to normal, barring any unexpected developments.”
But Colby says don’t expect to return to a regional reopening approach, despite Chatham-Kent’s miniscule numbers. “With regard to tying the numbers of vaccinated people to the ability to open up and more relaxed precautions, it’s being done on a provincial basis,” he says.
“The difficulties in having a different set of rules with an artificial border in between are very difficult. So I’m happy that they’re doing this on a provincial basis.”
Colby says the dropping case loads, both locally and provincially, are “really the result of bringing the wave to an end with the vaccination program. So we’ll cross our fingers and hope we don’t have even more nasty variants arising,” says Colby. “But when people are vaccinated it’s less likely that variants will arise… Basically the more people that are vaccinated, the less able the virus is to find a susceptible person to jump to and propagate.”
Colby says increased shipments of mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) have helped offset the “uneven” supply of AstraZeneca doses. He continues to stress that people should take the first vaccine they can get as we attempt to fend off the Delta variant.
“We still don’t have any cases (of Delta) here in Chatham-Kent, but in anticipation we’re trying to accelerate the second doses and making tremendous progress on that… I really think it’s important to get the second dose as soon as possible.”
“Although one dose is quite protective against serious illness and death… in order to prevent infection efficiently we need two doses,” says Colby.
He adds he’s hopeful of the prospect that children two and under may one day be vaccine eligible too. “I think it’s wonderful if we can get vaccines approved for younger children. It is possible that the young children could ping-pong this around and serve as a source of infection to more vulnerable people. It’s older people that by and large don’t do well if they get infected,” says Colby.
“The more of our population we can vaccinate the better chance we have of extricating this disease. We do, on a worldwide scale, have the technology and the economic power to be able to vaccinate everyone in the world. It’s possible. And then we would eradicate this.”
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent