The Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) moved into the green zone of the province’s COVID-19 reopening framework on Monday, and the shift has once again raised concerns about the risk of opening the region while the rest of the province remains under in lock down.
At a recently held Collingwood council meeting, Collingwood Deputy Mayor, Keith Hull said if he were a councillor in TBM he would be "terrified" that the province just opened up the town as "Ontario's playground," for anyone and everyone to come without restrictions.
TBM Mayor Alar Soever said he is more concerned about people abiding by public health protocols once they arrive at TBM, as opposed to monitoring or restricting where they are travelling from.
“I think if everybody follows all of the protocols, regardless of where they're from, then, we should continue to see success. The bottom line is people have been coming up here since March and travelling back and forth,” Soever said.
“People should just appreciate the fact that we are in the green zone, but keep up their guard, follow all the health protocols and I don't think we will have a problem,” he continued.
Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health for the GBHU said he is concerned about people coming into the area from other high-risk regions, but he is confident in the community’s ability to continue to embrace safety measures.
“This is definitely a top concern these days,” Arra said. “But, we look at the way the community has performed over the past 12 months, and I have a high-level of confidence that people will keep their guard up. However, we do need to do a bit more during this time, just because of the discrepancy between the level of risk between the two areas."
In terms of initiating control measures, such as check stops coming into the community or address checks, Arra said nothing is off the table.
“If there are indications that more intrusive measures are needed, we might go there. But at this point, it's education and communication to businesses and to the public in Grey-Bruce,” Arra said.
Soever said check stops are not overly realistic and would be very difficult to manage logistically.
“I just don't think there is a practical way of doing it,” he said. “When people do come here, as long as they socially distance and monitor their own health, and stay home when they have even minimal symptoms, then I think it's going to be just fine,” Soever said.
Soever added that he would encourage residents to focus on where transmission of COVID-19 is occurring and follow the messages being provided by the GBHU.
“Regardless of what zone you're in, just keep following the public health advice. We're in the green zone now. But if people don't follow the rules, we can go backwards pretty quick,” Soever said.
According to Arra, since the onset of the pandemic, there have been no reports of case transmission related to a visitor and the majority of cases in the region are linked to private parties and social gatherings.
“It's difficult to predict the future. But it's so easy to look at the past. We have a whole summer of visitors coming to the area from high-risk area hotspots and not once did we have reports of case transmission related to a visitor,” Arra said.
“That really speaks to the commitment of businesses, local businesses and local community members to protect themselves, their family and the community. I see no reason why this would be any different going forward.”
Cases are reported based on the primary address of the person who tests positive for COVID-19, the health unit will receive positive test results for individuals whose primary address is in Grey and Bruce County.
As the community begins to embrace the freedom of the green zone, Arra pleads with the public to remember the 3W’s.
"Washing hands frequently watching distance - regardless of the colour of the zone, regardless of where the person is from, these things have and will keep us safe until enough vaccines are in arms," Arra said.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca