Wellington municipalities to end declared states of emergency when province leaves Step 3

·2 min read

As Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie "seriously consider(s)" revoking the state of emergency declared by the city early in the pandemic, Wellington County Warden Kelly Linton says county municipalities have agreed to end their local states of emergency when the province announces it's leaving Step 3 of its reopening plan.

Ontario reached the first milestone for exiting Step 3 on Thursday with 80 per cent of people aged 12 and up having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Two other conditions must also be met. Seventy-five per cent of the eligible population must be fully vaccinated and no public health unit can have less than 70 per cent of its eligible population with two doses.

Public health and health care indicators will also have to remain stable.

Although each of the county's seven member municipalities has the power to enact and rescind emergency orders individually, doing it jointly "just makes it a whole lot easier for citizens to understand and make sure we're consistent across the board," said Linton.

Similarly, Linton said Wellington County mayors felt tying the end of their local states of emergencies to the province leaving Step 3 would simplify messaging to residents.

"We want to make sure that the messaging to our citizens and to our businesses is as clear as possible," he said. "So in addition to announcing that we are going to end our declared states of emergency, we'll also communicate out to the public that we're reopening our facilities, and that we're returning to in person council meetings."

"It simplifies the communication message, at a time when it's really important to get straightforward and simple messages out to our residents," he continued.

The move also allows them to "leverage the expertise" of the province, which is taking vaccination rates and other public health data into consideration, said Linton.

Wellington County and its member municipalities declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 23, the City of Guelph followed three days later.

The declaration gives municipal leaders authority to take actions or make orders to protect residents. Centre Wellington and the City of Guelph also passed bylaws granting additional powers to their CAOs to attend to urgent matters during the state of emergency.

Linton said ultimately "there really hasn't been that much we've needed to use the emergency declaration for," but it was important to have in place just in case.

"Since this is the first time any of us have gone through a pandemic of this magnitude, we really wanted to be proactive," he said.

Alison Sandstrom, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com

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