With the Government of Ontario this week unveiling guiding principles to reopen the province, we can now speculate on a timeline for when things might get back to normal in Haliburton County.
Premier Doug Ford announced a three stage strategy April 27. With the province still virtually locked down until the end of May – schools and provincial parks for example – we can realistically predict the stages to begin in June.
In stage one, there will be some reopening of businesses ordered to close, or restrict operations. However, they’ll still be under public health guidelines. Some outdoor spaces, such as parks, will be opened. And the number of people allowed to attend some events will be increased. For those who have had non-urgent and scheduled surgeries, or other health care service needs, you may get a call.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will then analyze how it goes. How it goes means: a consistent two to four week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases; sufficient acute and critical care capacity, including access to ventilators and ongoing availability of personal protective equipment; approximately 90 per cent of new COVID-19 contacts being reached by local public health officials within one day, with guidance and direction to contain community spread; and ongoing testing of suspected COVID-19 cases, especially of vulnerable populations, to detect new outbreaks quickly.
Stage two will involve opening more workplaces, which may include some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces. Some larger public gatherings would be allowed, and more outdoor spaces would open.
If things are going well, the province could then open all workplaces responsibly and further relax restrictions on public gatherings in stage three.
That means a period of a minimum of six weeks to a maximum of 12 weeks to take us to the end of stage three.
Safe to say, we are not going to have a traditional summer season in Haliburton County.
Our local leaders are beginning to plan for that unfortunate economic reality. The county’s tourism department, for example, has sent out an email to stakeholders, in which director Amanda Virtanen assured them they were working on a recovery plan considering a number of factors and including a variety of partners.
In it, she wrote people need to remember that every destination in the world will be competing for tourists, but we have an advantage since people will initially opt for domestic travel and we have physical space and outdoor fresh air experiences.
We are close to major markets such as the GTA, who can drive to us. We’re hearing gas prices will remain low.
She noted our accommodations are uniquely well-positioned to take advantage of the new mindset of a more local traveller, who are likely to want their own cabins, and less-crowded accommodations.
Locals have a role to play, too. I patronized a local hardware store on the weekend and staff told me they were being run off of their feet. We must continue to shop local. We further encourage our cottagers to return in mid-summer and stay longer into the fall. Above all, we urge all residents and visitors to continue to follow current health guidelines to ensure an earlier, rather than later, recovery.