Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien is urging residents to remain calm and take care of each other as sweeping changes affect the city due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“This situation is changing every day and every hour, frankly,” Therrien says.
People have been good about listening to messaging from Peterborough Public Health, she says.
“What we’re hearing now is that we do have a lot of elderly folks in our community who maybe can’t get out and get groceries,” Therrien says.
The mayor recommends checking on anyone who is elderly, who may be unable to go shopping or who may be self-isolating and seeing what you can do to help.
“This is a serious issue, but we have to work together as a team to make sure we get through this in the best way possible, with the least damage possible,” Therrien said.
She says she knows there are concerns about losses to business and many are worried about their jobs.
“I know there are a lot of folks right now that are really concerned about not getting a paycheque,” Therrien says. “It’s a scary time for a lot of people, and for a lot of people, that’s scarier than the illness.”
Meanwhile, the business of the city continues.
“You spend two hours thinking about a strategy on something, and the next day it could be all different,” Therrien said.
She says city officials are teleconferencing on a regular basis, trying to keep up on new information as it comes down from the federal and provincial governments while trying to figure out what actions to take on a municipal level.
Last week, the city decided to close municipal recreational facilities. Earlier this week, the city decided to close municipal offices to limit interaction between city staff and the public.
Therrien says most city services are available online but acknowledges that not everyone has access to the internet or is comfortable with computers.
“If there are specific forms people need, if they need to get in a planning application, those types of things, there is still staff in the building so just contact us, and we will put you in touch and figure out a way to make it happen,” she says.
Under the Municipal Act, city councillors cannot hold a meeting through teleconference or video conference. Therrien explains that any councillor who called in would be able to listen to the meeting but wouldn’t be able to vote, however that could change.
Therrien says she has spoken to Deputy Premier Christine Elliott and MPP Steve Clark, minister of municipal affairs and housing, and that there are plans to introduce a bill that would give municipalities additional powers to hold meetings over the phone in the event of an emergency.
“They’re recognizing that they need to let municipalities do that because we do need to move the business of the city forward,” Therrien says. “We have had several conversations about that because we do have a council meeting Monday.”
Some municipalities have cancelled meetings, she says, though councillors in Peterborough are reluctant to do that because there are some time-sensitive items on the agenda.