Officials worry for residents' mental health with stricter restrictions

·3 min read
Leeds, Grenville and Lanark was one of the few regions across the province that was allowed to reopen as green, with the fewest COVID-19 restrictions in place. They turn red on Monday. (Andrew Foote/CBC - image credit)
Leeds, Grenville and Lanark was one of the few regions across the province that was allowed to reopen as green, with the fewest COVID-19 restrictions in place. They turn red on Monday. (Andrew Foote/CBC - image credit)

Authorities in eastern Ontario say they're not surprised about their regions changing colours on Ontario's pandemic scale, but there are concerns for residents' mental health with intensified restrictions.

On Monday, the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit (LGL) moves from yellow to red while Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health goes from green to yellow.

The Ontario government announced the changes Friday. There is some good news for restaurants, which previously under red would only be allowed 10 people indoors. Establishments can now have about 50 per cent of the indoor dining area accessible to the public with a total of 50 people inside for red zones and 100 people in orange.

The LGL was one of the few regions that was allowed to reopen as green after the provincewide lockdown, with the fewest COVID-19 restrictions in place. That's changed in a matter of weeks following an outbreak linked to a curling club in Perth, which is still being investigated by the public health unit.

"That's just the nature of the virus," said Dr. Paula Stewart, the medical officer of health for the region. "If you have people who gather together and the precautions aren't in place ... that's what happens."

'That's my big concern, frankly, is that the shutdown will influence people's mental health and our ability to cope,' says Dr. Paula Stewart, the medical officer of health for LGL.
'That's my big concern, frankly, is that the shutdown will influence people's mental health and our ability to cope,' says Dr. Paula Stewart, the medical officer of health for LGL. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

Stewart said reopening in green likely gave residents the wrong message that the pandemic for the region was over.

"I think people relaxed a little bit more," she said.

She said her biggest concern is how people will cope with moving to red which is why she supports the province's adjustments to restaurant capacity limits.

"That's my big concern, frankly, is that the shutdown will influence people's mental health and our ability to cope," she said.

'A good cautionary move'

"I would be lying if I didn't say that, obviously, you know, we're disappointed," said North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford, but also that she believes the move is the right one.

"The province is striking the right balance in terms of, you know, keeping our local business community open, but really signalling the alarms," she said.

Peckford is hopeful a move to the red will help contain the spread of COVID-19 and her region will be able to return to the green zone soon.

KFL&A was also in the green zone. Moving to yellow caps 10 people for indoors and 25 outdoors for fitness classes, among other restrictions.

"Going into this is probably a good cautionary move to make sure that people understand that we're not by it," said Marg Isbester, mayor of Greater Napanee.

"Our businesses who have been very good, very careful right from the beginning, just don't need to be in another lockdown and at this point, I'd fight pretty hard to make sure that they didn't go that way," Isbester said.