Lennox and Addington County is officially under a State of Emergency.
L&A County Warden and Greater Napanee Mayor Marg Isbester declared the emergency Thursday afternoon amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to declare the emergency came at the suggestion of KFL&A Public Health.
“We have to take our cue from them,” said Isbester. “We have been all along having meetings with (Public Health) and have said all along when it got to when they felt to suppress community spread, when (a declaration of emergency) was time, they would let us know. The community spread factor has risen. We needed to have the powers to really get it out to people that this isn’t a joke. This is real. It puts us into a different mode of operation so that we can try and protect people from even further spread. That takes the pressure off the hospital, takes the pressure off the health unit.”
Their facilities closed for nearly two weeks now, the township has taken to roping off play structures and closing any outdoor facilities that encourage public gatherings.
Isbester hopes that will be enough for people to follow the federal government’s orders to practice social distancing.
“I’d hate to say that we’re going to get into a situation where we have to go with curfews,” Isbester said of people not doing their part to plank the curve. “If we have people disobeying the rules, not staying with the social distancing, not self isolating, gathering in groups where they shouldn’t be, it doesn’t matter the age. Those are the things that we really need to hammer home. I don’t want us to become a police state”
With evidence of community spread of COVID-19 in the KFL&A region, it has been determined an emergency exists within L&A County that places residents at risk.
“We must act now to address this serious public health threat.” said Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health at KFL&A Public Health. “This situation clearly illustrates the highly contagious nature of COVID-19 and emphasizes the importance of practicing physical distancing and self-isolation in order to control the community spread of the virus.”
According to KFL&A Public Health, there are now 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region.
Isbester said the decision to declare an emergency wasn’t one she took lightly. The last time the town declared an emergency was the summer of 2010 when members of the Greater Napanee Fire Department and family members were involved in two serious collisions within a 24 hour span while returning home from a FireFit competition.
“You don’t declare an emergency just because,” said Isbester.
By declaring an emergency, the county could potentially qualify for emergency financial support from the provincial or federal level. It also could assist in procuring important medical supplies as well as to re-deploy non-essential staff in different roles to assist through the pandemic crisis.
“During this difficult time, we are asking everyone in the community to take physical distancing seriously, especially around vulnerable populations” stated Isbester. “And please, please stay at home to reduce the likelihood of further transmission.”
Precautions to prevent transmission include self-isolation, maintaining at least two metre distance from others, avoiding all unnecessary travel, washing hands often, and regularly disinfecting high touch zones in shared spaces in a home.
The state of emergency also allows Greater Napanee council to explore different ways of assisting residents with expected financial difficulties that will arise from loss of work. A special virtual meeting, which will be available for viewing on Greater Napanee’s Youtube page, will take place Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. Isbester, CAO Ray Callery and town clerk Susan Beckel will be in the town hall chambers, socially distanced, while the rest of council will join via video link from their homes.
“I don’t think there’s anyone on council, and I can speak for both levels, that doesn’t want to do everything they can to help those in need to make things easier,” said Isbester. “Whether it’s bag tags. Whether it’s opening up the dump. Whether it is deferring a tax instalment. Whether it is helping people maybe defer bills. All of that will be discussed which will be in an open meeting.”
What will come of the meeting is yet to be determined, though Isbester noted a municipal government is the only level of government that can’t legally run a deficit.
Despite the ongoing uncertainty, Isbester did offer a positive note.
“There’s been a lot of good news stories,” noted the warden. “A lot of people offer to help with things if they can and still not expose themselves (to the virus). A lot of people, if they are going to a grocery store once every two weeks, they shop for four or five people and drop them off. Teachers that are online are doing games and reading books to people. There’s people drawing on their driveways, putting teddy bears out in their windows. There’s lots of good news stuff from people staying home and doing what they’re supposed to do.”
For more information about the County’s response to COVID-19 visit www.lennox-addington.on.ca/covid-19.