Local officials concerned over planned protests

·3 min read

A planned protest against COVID-19 restrictions has local officials feeling concerned.

Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff said he is concerned about protesters from virus hotspots coming to the municipality for a march against COVID-19 restrictions.

The CK Freedom group is scheduled to hold a march and rally on Nov. 21.

“A concern I have with a rally like that happening anywhere is that it brings people from all communities,” said Canniff. “It’s not all local people doing this.”

The town of Aylmer, Ont., declared a State of Emergency before a march that drew an estimated 2,000 people to the small town last week.

“In Aylmer, I understand there were a lot of people coming from Toronto right through to Windsor,” said Canniff. “As we know, there are some real hotspots in certain areas of Toronto, so we would have all these people coming to our community.”

According to Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, it’s too early to know if last week’s march has led to a rise in COVID-19 cases in the Aylmer area. However, he said it’s become “very, very clear” that outdoor exposures are much less risky than indoor exposures.

Colby said he is hopeful Chatham-Kent will not have to deal with a March protest.

“As we all know, the numbers are rising in Ontario and we are starting to think about more stringent control procedures,” said Colby.

Ontario reported more than 1,500 cases last week and recorded three straight days with a single-day record-high total.

Colby said he isn’t sure why marchers would protest against measures designed to protect people while COVID-19 numbers are surging.

“I have a lot of trouble understanding the denialism of people that, in the wake of rising numbers and some jurisdictions – thankfully not Chatham-Kent – that have overcrowded hospitals and strained capacity, that they seem to be in denial of that and in denial of what needs to happen,” said Colby.

He added wearing personal protective equipment, physical distancing and hand hygiene, as well as sticking to house cohorts, is all that’s necessary to bring the transmission down and help flatten the curve.

“What we’re seeing with these increased numbers is the failure of people to do that,” said Colby. “Advocating for less-stringent precautions at this time, when it’s so important to keep this away from the vulnerable members of society, I have a lot of trouble understanding the rationale.”

Despite protests over the last few months, the turnout has been dropping, said Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire.

He added people are now starting to get into the routine of wearing masks, and they recognize it’s not an inconvenience, and there are benefits.

“I think people generally have felt better,” said Shropshire. “They’ve actually appreciated we’re doing what we can to take control of our own future and reduce the chance of transmission.”

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News