Lord Mayor Betty Disero has declared a state of emergency to protect the town from the COVID-19 virus.
As head of council, it is her decision to make, but she has made it in consultation with the emergency control group, which includes Fire Chief Nick Ruller and the interim CAO, and also with the support of town councillors, she says.
She began considering a state of emergency last week, and was discussing it with councillors on Friday, each one of them fully supporting the move, she says.
The scales were tipped toward taking the extra precaution by the large number of returning travellers to town. The arrival of the seasonal farm workers was also a factor. “It’s great that they are able to come, I’m glad they’re coming,” she says, but there will be a lot more people in a town with 50 per cent of its population over the age of 50.
The declaration is the next step toward slowing the potential spread of the virus for the protection of residents, businesses and staff, she says.
It has been a concern with many in town that not everyone returning from travel has been self-isolating. Grocery store and Avondale staff have reported asking shoppers they know to have been out of the country to go home.
There are people in town who do not appreciate the severity of the situation, and who are disregarding the advice of public officials, says Disero. By making a “quick stop at the grocery store,” they may unintentionally endanger others,” including the public and grocery store employees.
“Please think of your community and cooperate,” she adds, especially considering the demographics of NOTL’s mature community.
“We will continue to do our part to protect you. We ask that you join us in doing your part as well.”
On Monday, she only knew of the two grocery stores, the convenience stores which also sell food, the pharmacies, and the gas stations that could stay open. Health care workers and banks are also considered essential.
“Today’s declaration is another example of the timely and decisive action that is required to flatten the curve and lessen the impact of COVID-19 in our community,” says Fire Chief Nick Ruller in a news release from the Town. “Each one of us is responsible for the health and wellbeing of one another during this pandemic. When people are self-isolating, this crisis is contained. I applaud Lord Mayor Disero and Town Council for their commitment and leadership, as we continue to take every necessary step to effectively reduce potential for spread of this virus throughout Niagara- on-the-Lake.”
Disero says she and council will do everything they can to help residents through this health emergency.
“Please remain calm and do your part by practising social distancing, and staying home as much as possible,” says Disero. “If you have just returned to Niagara-on-the-Lake, go straight home and do not leave your house for 14 days. I know the people of Niagara-on-the-Lake are incredibly kind and helpful, and I have no doubt that we will work together to get through this trying time. Call a friend or a member of council to help pick up whatever essential supplies you need.”
The state of emergency declaration overrides an earlier bylaw that gave Disero the ability to make decisions on behalf of council, along with Randall.
She had also already released a message on Saturday asking residents to obey self-isolating and hygiene rules, stressing the importance of following the recommendations of public health experts to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
While all Town meetings have been cancelled in the coming weeks, including the meeting of the committee-of-the-whole scheduled for this past Monday, and council on March 30, the Province has now passed legislation allowing phone-in meetings, and a virtual meeting to discuss council business and COVID-19 is expected to be held March 30.
To see the video made by Disero, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_TgnZLEzBc&feature=youtu.be.