Lord Mayor Betty Disero says COVID cases in some Niagara municipalities, including Niagara-on-the-Lake, could justify a move to the grey lockdown zone.
She’s basing that on the numbers of COVID-19 cases across the region last Friday, as explained in a regional update by Dr. Mustafa Hirji, acting chief medical officer of health for Niagara, for mayors and regional councillors.
Hirji showed politicians a map of the region, she said, indicating some municipalities qualify for the grey lockdown category, others in the less restrictive red zone. Niagara-on-the-Lake, beginning to recover from a long-term care home outbreak, looked especially bad.
The decision to be made when lifting the lockdown in Niagara, to her mind, should be based on whether there are any municipalities still in grey by the end of the week.
“If the numbers indicate any areas in grey, then Niagara should be in grey,” she says, noting the number of cases were going down earlier this week, but it will depend on how far they fall.
She shares some of Hirji’s concern that cases could increase with a reopening, especially if Toronto, Peel and York residents decide to travel to Niagara as they did in the fall, and Niagara is in the red zone, “but we won’t know that until the end of the week.”
The one thing Niagara will have going for it when businesses reopen and the other three hotspots remain closed, is the weather, she adds, which could be a deterrent to visitors, at least for the next week until those three areas are also lifted out of the lockdown.
“It could be just what we need, at least for a week.”
Disero said she hadn’t heard any more details about the lifting of restrictions than what was announced Monday, although one aspect of the new restrictions, and a benefit for small businesses, is that big box stores, allowed to stay open during the lockdown, which many felt was unfair to small businesses, also have to reduce their capacity to 25 per cent.
What she did hear from the province was a mixed message, that non-essential retailers could reopen, which is important for small businesses locally, but residents should “stay home, stay home, stay home.”
While it may not seem fair to those anxious to see their families, “I don’t see any other way to help businesses and the economy. Everyone’s trying to figure out a way to keep businesses afloat, but at the same time, to keep numbers down, telling people don’t go to visit friends and family in groups, don’t party. Stay home.”