It’s “full steam ahead” with Phase Two of reopening on Wednesday. Businesses are preparing to expand their capacity and some, such as hair and nail salons, will be able to open their doors for the first time in months.
Originally scheduled for July 2, Ontario achieved the new stage two days early thanks to strong vaccination numbers and a drop in hospitalizations. June 26, nearly 10 million residents have had at least one dose, and almost four million were fully vaccinated.
Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby says the province, and the municipality, are ready. “The numbers justify it... those were the criteria that were set out from the beginning and they include very substantial immunization targets which provide a tremendous cushion in society from the virus spreading.”
The province has actually met the thresholds specified for Phase Three of reopening, weeks ahead of the predicted July 23 schedule. Despite this Colby is hesitant against moving too fast, as are the other medical officers of health in Ontario.
“We all advised caution about moving into Phase Three,” he says of a recent call with his counterparts. “We’re a cautious bunch, our job is to keep the people of Ontario safe. We really just want to take a pause for a second and not move too quickly.”
“We still have very significant gathering limits in the province of Ontario. Outdoor gatherings are loosening up nicely that I think will allow a relatively normal summer with regard to outdoor activities,” says Colby. “But we are still keeping a close eye on indoor activities. Until we’re really out of the woods, we’re not out of the woods.”
However, “I think there’s a chance that Phase Two will go quite quickly,” he adds. Each phase is supposed to have three weeks in between.
In Chatham-Kent 65,265 residents have one dose of the vaccine and 25,828 have gotten both shots by June 25. There’s 90 per cent of adults over 60 with one dose and 50 per cent of them with two doses.
The 18 and up population have 72 per cent with a first dose and 30 per cent fully dosed.
Saturday there were just two active Covid cases in Chatham-Kent, one local resident in hospital and no outbreaks of the virus.
Colby says he’s “extremely proud of the efforts that everyone has put into the vaccination effort,” but “rather than rest on our laurels I’m always looking as to how we can make this better.”
He says the current target areas are getting people second doses along with an emphasis on the 12-17 year-old range. “The idea is to get that group vaccinated with two doses before school starts in September.”
There’s 42 per cent of Chatham-Kent’s 12-17 year-olds with a dose of the vaccine.
Colby says he’s hoping to hit the 90 per cent threshold for the entire community, recognizing “I’m going to have to write off a certain percentage because there are people who are philosophically opposed to vaccination.”
“It’s not a way of thinking that I understand. I always look to the science and not try and base opinions on ideology. But people are free to form their own ideas, that’s part of being human. And if they are ideologically opposed I don’t think I’m going to be able to convince those people.”
But he says this group is a “tiny minority” overall and there isn’t much vaccine hesitancy in the county. “All I ask is that everybody look at the science and look at the tremendous record of success, not only of COVID vaccines, but of vaccinations in general."
"We were able to eradicate a scourge of the planet – smallpox – with vaccinations. There was no other way to do it. And there’s no other way to deal with this pandemic that is actually going to be successful,” says Colby.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent