There is no set end date for the pandemic being over.
Last week, the Ontario government announced that all COVID-19 restrictions could potentially end by the end of March, including vaccine passports and masks if everything goes well.
While many are excited over the announcement, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Colby, admitted he is concerned people will interpret the provincial announcement as a trajectory towards the end of this pandemic early in the new year. He is stressing the fact this is a possibility and not a likelihood.
“I think a lot of members of the public are getting the idea that it (pandemic) will end in January or March to the dates that have been mentioned,” said Colby. “It is contingent upon everything settling down by that time.”
Colby said there’s a constant assessment that needs to be done in order to evaluate the situation correctly. He added the pandemic is not over, and we will be living with the virus beyond March.
According to the region’s top doctor, even if the province lifts mandatory mask-wearing and proof of vaccination, the municipality and the health unit have the power to keep them in place if the local numbers deem it necessary.
Colby reminded the public of the fact the municipality has a bylaw requiring masks to be worn indoors. This bylaw would have to be rescinded along with the provincial rules in order for masking to come to an end within Chatham-Kent.
In fact, Colby said there’s no guarantee the public safety measures will be lifted in the new year.
He said the pandemic has been unpredictable, highlighting that nobody could have anticipated the Delta virus arriving.
“If the delta virus had not arisen and become the predominant strain, and we were dealing with the original COVID strain that circulated, we would have enough herd immunity now to be done with it. We cannot predict what’s going to happen in the future.,” said Colby.
The region’s top doctor admitted he is worried the province’s announcement will lead to unvaccinated people holding out as they now have an “end date” in mind of how long they have to hold out before restrictions are lifted.
“So if people are hanging their hats and saying, ‘I’ve only got to hold out for another couple of months, and I won’t have to get vaccinated,’ I would ask them what they are holding out for, with a 36 times greater chance of dying from being unvaccinated,” said Colby.
Mayor Darrin Canniff said the municipal mask bylaw would be discussed at the next council meeting.
According to Don Shropshire, Chatham-Kent’s Chief Administrative Officer, because Chatham-Kent’s vaccination rates are still some of the lowest in the province, he still wants to promote vaccinations.
He added he would hate to get to a point where the rest of the province is opening up, and Chatham-Kent still requires wearing masks or maintaining regulations.
“I don’t think we should be doing anything with any of our regulations that in any way is going to restrict what’s required to do to keep our community safe,” he said.
As of Oct. 27, the number of active cases in Chatham-Kent sits at 59.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News