At Monday’s planning meeting, town CAO Marnie Cluckie spoke of the vaccine roll-out, and the welcome reduction in the number of people travelling from outside the area.
Although Premier Doug Ford’s announcement of increased measures was expected Tuesday, she said, “we don’t know what that looks like,” and promised the town would pass on the information as soon as it becomes available.
The plan for the vaccine roll-out, which should get underway in Niagara this week, is determined by the province, she explained.
The Niagara Health system takes over from there, and Public Health has been asked to play an enhanced role with distribution of the vaccine to long-term care and retirement homes.
Town staff and members of the emergency control group have offered their services to work with the region in identifying potential locations that could be available for mass immunization, she said.
The town has had to start laying off contract staff, Cluckie said, although “we’ve been working hard to keep people working,” deploying staff where necessary.
“We’ve told our people to work from home as much as possible, except for those in essential services who have to come into the office, up until Aug. 31,” to reduce chances of contact and passing on the infection.
The good news, Cluckie said, is that the town is clearing snow from the path at the Virgil Sports Park, and from the trail in Sparky’s Park, behind the St. Davids Fire Hall on Warner Road, so people can get out, walk and get some exercise.
Although the Bell Media campaign indicates fewer visitors are coming to town from outside the area since the shutdown, a portable washroom has been placed outside Hendriks valu-mart to discourage visitors from asking to use local business facilities.
Shutting down public washrooms last spring caused a huge dilemma for visitors who continued to travel to NOTL, but had nowhere to go when they got here. Their choices were unhealthy and disturbing to many residents.
“While we are not encouraging tourists to come in, and in fact they should not be, we know that is happening,” said Cluckie, and the town is taking a proactive measure, and trying not to repeat the situation that occurred with the first shutdown.
The town is responsible for cleaning them regularly, she says.
The Bell Media campaign showed between Dec. 22 and the Dec. 26 shutdown, 60 per cent of those entering NOTL were from the region, 19 per cent from the GTA, 12 per cent were NOTL residents, and eight per cent were from Hamilton.
For the period after the shutdown the numbers changed to 49 per cent from the region, 26 per cent from the GTA, 14 per cent from NOTL and again eight per cent from Hamilton.
When asked about recent fines as a result of COVID regulation infractions, Cluckie explained that six of seven recent tickets issued were to visitors staying in a short-term rental. Although the reservation had been made before the lockdown, their arrival in town was after it went into effect, and the six people ticketed were all from different households.
She said the town is seeing an uptick in the number of complaints it receives, “not necessarily valid complaints, but we’re experiencing a number of opportunities to educate the public.”
The vast majority of business owners are in full compliance of regulations, she said, although the town continues to deal with mask issues.