It’s just tw days until Ontario’s much-debated vaccine passport comes into effect.
Starting Sept. 22 all non-essential businesses, such as indoor dining, will be required to have customers prove they’ve received a COVID shot in order to enter. Unvaccinated people can still go to essential places like the grocery store.
Chatham-Kent CAO Don Shropshire acknowledges some people, including local businesses, are not fans of the new mandate. “I've heard so many different reactions from the business community… everybody's talking about the importance of keeping businesses open and the challenges and in that regard.”
“At the end of the day we've been promoting vaccines as the best route to try and support continuity of business and trying to find ways to get us back to a sense of normal."
Shropshire says it’s “frustrating” to hear some businesses suggest they won’t be checking people’s vaccine status.
“I understand there's a whole bunch of stuff tied up into it. I'm hoping that people, when they've had an opportunity to consider all the different options, realize that we're trying to work together to find a solution that's going to make our community safe,” says Shropshire.
“I wish I had another option for them. But I think promoting the vaccinations and ongoing public health measures to reduce transmission is the best route forward,” he says.
But while Shropshire may be understanding of the position businesses find themselves in, he says there won’t be any tolerance for establishments flaunting the rules.
“If the province of Ontario enacts a law that says you have to do something, municipalities and our police services have a legal responsibility to enforce that,” he says. “That's something that's non-negotiable.”
But Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby says despite the detractors, the majority of businesses he’s talked to are behind the impending law.
“We've had very positive feedback from a number of hospitality businesses in Chatham-Kent about the vaccine certification program… It’s not a universally negative reaction, a lot of businesses are welcoming this.”
“The vaccine certification program is overwhelmingly approved by the majority of Ontarians… I think there likely will be voluntary compliance despite rumblings that we may hear,” says Colby.
“The vast majority of the people are not only compliant but they understand why the restrictions have been put in place,” adds Shropshire.
Monday there were 140 active COVID cases in Chatham-Kent after a weekend leap of 18. Seventeen people are in hosptial with the virus.
There’s three current outbreaks; two at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance and one workplace outbreak. Meanwhile positive student cases have been confirmed in three different Chatham schools.
There’s 79 per cent (74,079) of Chatham-Kent residents 12 and up who now have one dose of the vaccine and 73 per cent (67,865) fully dosed.
This rate is lagging compared to the rest of the province though. The county's fully dosed number is tied for the lowest in Ontario along with the Porcupine Health Unit in the North. The provincial average is 78 per cent.
The low vax numbers likely correlate with Chatham-Kent having the highest weekly case count per 100,000 people, at a rate of 113. Ontario's average weekly cases per 100,000 is 33.7.
Chatham-Kent also has the highest active cases per 100,000 people at 132. The province is averaging 42. The county's seven day positivity rate of 5.5 per cent is third highest in the province, which is average 3.3 per cent.
“I am somewhat comforted by the fact that our vaccination numbers are very high in the elderly segments that are at the most risk of a really bad outcome,” says Colby. Vaccination rates are topping 90 per cent for locals 60 and up.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent