Regional approach makes sense

I was parked outside the 50’s Diner in Minden May 29. Owner Jason Lake called me the evening of May 28 to make sure local media was on hand. He told me he’d called Global News. The story also made the pages of the Toronto Sun. Without a doubt, Lake wanted publicity. We knew it was a big news story since only one other restaurant in the region had tried opening to dine-in since COVID-19 struck and provincial orders mandated takeout only. The Shuck in Cobourg opened May 23, garnering an $880 fine.

Lake ensured a large contingent of staff and a few regular customers on hand for his protest. The story generated a lot of commentary. Some backed him completely. Others empathized but weren’t going to the restaurant. Others condemned him. It certainly got a conversation going.

In a nutshell, Lake and his staff felt it wasn’t right to treat a little diner in Minden, in a County that had not seen a new COVID-19 case in weeks – similar to a Toronto eatery, where the number of cases has been so much larger and increasing at a much greater rate.

For the record, we’ve had our eighth case of COVID-19 in Haliburton County. At last count, Toronto was up to 11,338 when I was working on this editorial. The GTA has about 66 per cent of the cases in Ontario.

Interestingly, the Minden 50’s Diner protest came on a day when Premier Doug Ford said the province is now considering a regional approach to reopening. He conceded the reality on the ground is different in every part of the province, and he was now comfortable with asking officials to look at a regional approach for a staged reopening. It’s an option they’ll consider as they move into stage two – if there isn’t a second wave of COVID-19. He said it’s the test results by region that are making this feasible now.

Ford has in the past resisted a more regionalized approach to reopening the economy, telling reporters that it is not something Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams has advocated for at this point. He was concerned by people visiting places with looser restrictions en masse.

There are medical officers of health in Ontario’s 34 public health units, including Lynn Noseworthy at the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit. We have not really heard much from her throughout the pandemic. Sure, the Health Unit has done a good job of disseminating information, but hasn’t provided other direction. For example, the board of the health unit never discussed the possibility of closing down cottage country to people from the GTA, as was done by the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.

A number of other provinces have taken a regional recovery approach. For example, parts of Quebec opened up while still leaving some restrictions in place in Montreal. The same for Alberta, and Calgary. As far as The Highlander is concerned, it makes sense to us for the province to go with a more regional approach.

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