The 28 day, province-wide shutdown, announced on Dec. 21 and put into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 26, resulted in a flurry of postings and information updates from countless boards, municipal government and public organizations, just as everyone was preparing to take part in holiday celebrations.
On Dec. 22, the Municipality of Kincardine posted it would be implementing its business continuity plan to manage the day to day operations of the Municipality.
Essential services, including snow removal, road maintenance, water and wastewater management and fire and emergency services would continue to operate as per usual. The Kincardine Waste Management Centre remains open to the public and garbage/recycling collection will continue. Residents are encouraged to visit the www.kincardine.ca website for updates.
The Davidson Centre, Tiverton Sports Centre, Kincardine Centre for the Arts and other third party facilities such as Whitney Crawford Community Centre, Brucedale Community Centre and the Kincardine Pavilion are all closed to the public during the shutdown. Municipal staff, who are able to do so, will continue to be available by phone and email during the shutdown. Taxes and other municipal payments can be paid by mail, the drop box at the Municipal Administrative Centre, online and telephone banking. Residents are asked to contact the treasury department if they have concerns about how to make payments during this time. Further updates are available at www.kincardine.ca.
The Tourism Information Centre will remain open for curbside pickup/services as required.
Municipal council will continue to meet electronically, until further notice.
In the Township of Huron-Kinloss, it was announced that in accordance with the shutdown, on Dec. 24 at 4:30 p.m., the Ripley Huron Community Centre, Point Clark Community Centre and Lucknow Town Hall would close until further notice. The Municipal office and the Hub, scheduled for closure until Jan. 4 for the holidays, would be closed to the public until further notice. Service is still available by appointment, phone or e-mail by contacting 519-395-3735 or firstname.lastname@example.org. After hours emergency service, regarding municipal issues, is available by contacting 1-866-299-5199.
“As we enter into this very critical time, I would like to encourage all members of our community to limit travel to essential only, stay within the health guidelines and limit engagement with others outside your immediate family, together we can make a difference in reducing the spread of COVID-19,” said mayor Mitch Towlan.
For emergencies related to the COVID-19 pandemic please contact Grey Bruce Public Health at 1-800-263-3456 or South Bruce O.P.P. non-emergency line at 1-888-310-1122.
Grey Bruce Health Services, Hanover & District Hospital, South Bruce Grey Health Centre and the Grey Bruce Health Unit issued a joint media release on Dec. 21, urging residents to follow public health guidelines to protect hospital capacity.
The release stated that “hospital capacity is being pushed to its limits across both the province and locally, and the hospitals are urging residents to follow Public Health guidance to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The surge in occupancy at Grey Bruce Health Services (GBHS), Hanover & District Hospital (HDH) and South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC) has left a limited number of beds available in the region, which the release says is a concerning trend leading up to the holiday season. Beds need to be available for patients suffering heart attacks, stroke, respiratory and gastrointestinal and other issues, as well as COVID-positive patients.
“We are keeping a close eye on the numbers, and taking all necessary steps to ensure that we are prepared at all four of our sites to protect the safety of our patients and staff,” said Michael Barrett, SBGHC president & CEO. “The trend that we are beginning to see in Grey Bruce is concerning – it is critical that our communities continue to practice diligent infection control practices to slow the spread.”
The Bluewater District School Board confirmed on Dec. 22 that in accordance with the announcement of the provincial shutdown, all publicly funded schools in Ontario will remain closed to students for a period following the holiday break as part of a province-wide shutdown to help manage the spread of COVID-19.
“Thank you for your continued patience, understanding, and support as we work through this closure period,” said BWDSB director Lori Wilder, in a release. “Please remember that we are here to support your child(ren)’s learning and a smooth transition to remote learning for all our families, and will get through this together as we have in the past. In the meantime, I hope you will be able to take time to enjoy the holidays, even if celebrations may look and feel a bit different this year.”
All elementary students will switch to full remote learning, following the holiday break, beginning on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. Unless otherwise determined by the provincial government, in-person learning will return on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, when elementary schools reopen to students.
All secondary students will switch to full remote learning, following the holiday break, beginning on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. Unless otherwise determined by the provincial government, in-person learning will return on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, when secondary schools reopen to students. Dual credit and co-op programs may continue virtually during this three-week period.
A letter from Wilder to parents/guardians, elementary and secondary schools, dated Dec. 17, said the board will utilize the online learning environment (Office 365 suite, Brightspace) for daily lessons. Child(ren) will receive further instructions on getting set up, along with details for online expectations on Jan. 4, 2021. If parents or guardians did not have their child(ren)’s active directory login(s) and password(s), this information will be provided at that time.
Parents/guardians of children attending a special education class placement will be contacted on Jan. 4, 2021 to discuss access to remote learning.
Families requiring assistance with access to reliable internet and/or devices, will be contacted by schools individually based on their previous assessments of the needs on Jan. 4, 2021.
There will be no student transportation services provided during the week of Jan. 4, 2021. Student transportation will resume on Jan. 11, 2021.
For elementary and secondary students who are already attending remote school, classes will resume as usual on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021.
While child care centres in schools will remain open during this one-week period, they will be prohibited from serving school-aged children. Families may wish to contact their child care providers to determine their availability during the week of Jan. 4, 2021. Further details regarding emergency child care for school-aged children will be released shortly by the Ministry of Education.
Before and after school programs will be cancelled during this one-week period.
Wilder also said that everyone should be aware of the mental health resources available to support students and families, including Kids Help Phone, which offers 24/7 counselling and referral services across the province. The free resource is available to children, who can call 1-800-668-6868, or text CONNECT to 686868. School Mental Health Ontario also has many helpful resources for students, parents/guardians, and families on their website at www.smho-smso.ca. The board’s mental health and well-being web page offers information concerning additional resources at www.bwdsb.on.ca//students/mental_health.
Huron Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson said the province is taking the necessary steps to protect the residents of Ontario.
“I have spoken with our local medical officers of health as well as our municipal leaders. I appreciate their understanding and support for this action,” said Thompson. She added, “the shutdown is necessary in order to continue our unconditional support of our frontline workers and hospital network.”
In an effort to support small businesses in Ontario (less than 100 employees), already suffering from the effects of the pandemic, the government continues to provide support to businesses now required to restrict their operations or shut down after the Dec. 26 lockdown.
“This support will help ensure they can continue serving their communities and employing people once COVID-19 has been eradicated,” said Thompson “I know, and this government knows, that small businesses across Huron-Bruce and across the province have been seriously hurt during these challenging times. That is why we have created the New Ontario small business support grant.”
The grant will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to help small business owners during the pandemic.
Small businesses that have been required to close or restrict services under the shutdown will be able to apply for this one-time grant. Each small business will be able to use the support in whatever way makes the most sense for their individual business. For example, some businesses will need support paying employee wages or rent, while others will need support maintaining their inventory.
Eligible small businesses include those that are required to close or significantly restrict services due to the province-wide shutdown and have fewer than 100 employees at the enterprise level and have experienced a minimum of 20 per cent revenue decline in April 2020, compared to April 2019.
Starting at $10,000 for all eligible businesses, the grant will provide businesses with dollar for dollar funding to a maximum of $20,000, to help cover decreased revenue expected as a result of the shutdown. The business must demonstrate they experienced a revenue decline of at least 20 per cent, when comparing monthly revenue in of April 2019 and April 2020. Thompson said this time period was selected because it reflects the impact of the public health measures in spring 2020, and as such provides a representation of the possible impact of these latest measures on small businesses.
For small businesses not in operation in April 2019 or April 2020, eligibility criteria will be announced in January 2021.
Businesses that are not eligible include those that were already required to close prior to the introduction of modified Stage 2 measures and essential businesses that were permitted to operate with capacity restrictions, including discount and big box stores selling groceries, supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, and beer, wine and liquor stores.
Further details, including how to apply for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, will be announced in January 2021.
Additional supports for business during the pandemic can be found by visiting the https://budget.ontario.ca/2020/index.html.
Tammy Lindsay, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent