With a number of cases of COVID-19 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Town’s message becomes increasingly dire: stay home.
Although The Local is hearing from residents who are confused over conflicting messages about walking and biking, there is no conflict about the message from the Town. NOTL has different demographics than other municipalities, a large number of returning travellers and snowbirds, said Lord Mayor Betty Disero. To curb the potential threat of COVID-19, NOTL residents are being told to stay home.
Disero knows there are NOTL residents who have tested positive. She doesn’t know how many, but said “it’s probably about five,” although others have told The Local, that the number is closer to 15.
Disero is not looking for names, but that she doesn’t know the exact number, or the areas where they live, is a source of frustration to her.
“We just don’t know. We’ve been fighting with the Region to get the numbers in each municipality, but we’re not getting that. Other regions are doing that.”
If she had more information, she said, it would help to know how to move forward.
“I believe the public has the right to know. I want to know the number of people, and what caused the local transmission. It could be travellers, or it could be community spread. That information could determine how we deal with it, what measures we put into place.”
The Region cites protecting the privacy of individuals as the reason for not releasing more information, says Disero.
“That doesn’t make sense. It’s important information for us to have.”
Disero addressed council Monday in another of its virtual, phone-in meetings, explaining the reason for the March 23 declaration of a state of emergency in NOTL was to protect from the potential of spread. “My hope was to create a bubble around our little town, but the virus is here now. We must be ever so mindful, because the results of the actions you take today will not be seen for a number of days, and we do not want them to be devastating.”
The Niagara Region, as of noon Tuesday, was reporting 162 identified cases of people infected with the virus.
But even without details of how many in NOTL, the evidence of its spread to town drives home the importance of her message.
“We’re heading into a long weekend, a holiday weekend. Don’t have a party on your driveway. It’s not protecting each other, even if you are standing apart from each other. Don’t do it.”
In her address at Monday’s meeting, she explained the spread of the virus is “by droplets and the aerosol that comes out of people’s mouths when they breathe, when they speak, when they sing or when they yell. The louder they are the further their vocal cords push out that spray.”
The virus can also be spread by touch, she said. “If you touch a glass I give you and put it to your mouth or touch your eyes, you can contract COVID-19. So even if you were keeping two metres apart, picnicking or drinking from a bottle poured by someone else, or taking a glass held by someone else, can make you susceptible.”
As well, people are still walking through the park to get some exercise, keeping their distance, she said, “but what we are finding is members of the community are climbing over fences, parking illegally or driving around the barricades to play in some of the fenced-off areas. For example, because fishermen were overrunning Riverbeach Park, we had to close it off, so now people can’t even walk through it. I ask once again for those who find it necessary to totally disregard the efforts of the community to stop community spread, please comply.”
Disero has been in the habit of walking with her mother daily while she walks her dog, but she’s not doing that anymore, she told The Local. Instead, she talks to her mother on the phone daily.
But, she adds, “if you must walk or bike, do it from home. If you feel well, walk from home and keep your distance from other people. You are allowed to walk, but keep your car at home. Bike from home. As long as you keep your distance, you’re okay,” she said.
The best way to stop the spread of this virus, she added, “is to stay home.”
And again, if you have returned home from travel recently, or are feeling sick, “do not leave the house.”
For a list of volunteers offering community assistance, including food delivery, visit https://notl.org/content/community-assistance.