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Coronavirus: Gananoque council addresses public health, economic concerns

Gananoque River running through the centre of town.
Gananoque River running through the centre of town. Global Kingston

Gananoque, a tourist town of just over 5,000 people, is like every other community across the country facing the spread of COVID-19.

To date, the town has not had a confirmed case of the coronavirus and Mayor Ted Lojko hopes it stays that way.

He says all town buildings are closed to the public but services continue. The first-time mayor says residents can make inquiries online or by phone.

With only essential businesses allowed to operate, Lojko says the town council is very aware of the financial hardship many are suffering.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Morneau outlines measures feds taking to mitigate economic impact of COVID-19

“We’re not going to be charging any interest on payments that’s owed to the town.”

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Council has also waved metered parking fees and deferred property tax payments until the end of May.

Coun. Mike Kench says if necessary, that deferment could be lengthened depending on how long it takes for COVID-19 crisis to resolve itself.

“We’re continually assessing the situation and making adjustments.”

Lojko says he’s more than satisfied that Gananoque citizens are taking the pandemic seriously.

The town has handed out 1,000 bottles of hand sanitizers to front-line workers at area businesses providing goods like food at area grocery stores.

Council has also placed signs aimed at returning snowbirds in high-traffic areas in the community, telling them to go straight home, have necessities delivered and self-isolate for 14 days.

Okanagan snowbirds adapting to self-isolation
Okanagan snowbirds adapting to self-isolation

The site also directs people to the Government of Canada coronavirus website.

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Coun. Dave Anderson is launching a project on Monday to help people with self-isolating.

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Anderson says Gananoque is a retirement town and has a high seniors population.

He says many seniors are already self-isolating by choice for safety because they are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Age isn’t the only factor in COVID-19 severity, experts say

On Monday, Anderson plans to have a registry launched for people self-isolating, whether it’s for age or other reasons like a compromised immunity system. The registry will be for those people and volunteers.

“They could check up on them on a daily occasion, socializing making sure that they’re OK or in fact if they have to run errands such as groceries or pharmacy requirements.”

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Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario official says many measures in grocery stores to keep people healthy

The registry will allow the town to match volunteers with those who need help, says Anderson.

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Heather Haynes, a Gananoque artist and runs her own gallery, says she supports mandatory shut down of non-essential businesses as a public health necessity, but adds business owners and employees are suffering.

“It is a kick in the teeth for everyone; obviously this community is based on tourism.”

Haynes says she feels she’s in a better position than many other businesses that are in the downtown with her.

“I’m really feeling for my friends and my neighbours.”

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Lojko says they are in contact with the Gananoque boat line and the 1,000 Islands Accommodation partners and a tourist advisory board has been established.

The mayor says international tourists, many from the American side of the border, will be down this year.

He says they are working on a more regional marketing campaign for when businesses are allowed to open again.

“It’s a matter of reaching out to people from Ontario, reaching out to people from Kingston or Brockville or whatever else and say: ‘Hey we’re open for business’.”

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Lojko says discussions are also taking place around how to draw those visitors to the area.

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“Maybe we do packages, maybe we do events or festivals.”

When any of that planning turns into action isn’t known but it could be weeks or even months away.

Gananoque registry information:

To get help: ganstayathome@gmail.com;

To Volunteer: ganvolunteers@gmail.com

Leave your name and phone number.

Registration can also be done by phone  at 613-382-2149, extension 1128