Coronavirus: Cobourg, Port Hope staying the course on closures, restrictions for now

Hand sanitizer at the entrance of the Cobourg Community Centre.
Hand sanitizer at the entrance of the Cobourg Community Centre. Special to Global News Peterborough

Northumberland County has not seen a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in quite some time now.

As of May 5, the area has seen 13 confirmed cases — all of which have been resolved, according to numbers provided by the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit.

But that doesn’t mean the Town of Cobourg and the Municipality of Port Hope are jumping at the idea of lifting restrictions and reopening facilities and amenities just yet.

READ MORE: COVID-19 — Cobourg, Ont., high school to be used as emergency shelter amid coronavirus pandemic

“Although we know the emergency order is set to expire on May 12, that doesn’t mean an all-green-lights-go approach in our municipality,” said C. Ryan Edgar, fire chief and director of the Municipal Emergency Control Group for Port Hope.

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“It will most likely be slow and methodical, but we want to make sure we’re looking out for our staff, residents and visitors at all times.”

Shannon Murphy, emergency planner for the Town of Cobourg, added: “At the moment, there are no new cases in our area, but that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down or not continue with the health directives that have been put in place. This will eventually come to an end.”

On Tuesday, it was a sign of things to come in Cobourg when the municipality reopened its community garden at James J. Tracey Park on Walton Street.

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The province had recently given the green light to reopening community gardens with strict physical-distancing measures in place, as well as no more than five members of the community garden allowed in at any time.

Meanwhile, recovery is a daily conversation for the emergency control teams in Cobourg and Port Hope.

“What does recovery look like? Indications this pandemic, while in the coming weeks, we could see restrictions lifted, we could see projections of it lasting up to 18 months,” said Murphy. “We’re building those plans out and will be implementing them strategically.

“We recognize by summer we could be back to business as usual; it will be conducted in a different way. Social distancing is likely here to stay for a bit.”

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“Through our business continuity plan, we’re looking at the long-term plan in-terms of reopening,” said Edgar.  “We’re going to be closely monitoring the guidance notes sent out through the province.”

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On April 22, all municipal lands and parks bordering the Ganaraska River in Port Hope were closed until May 12 as part of an effort to eliminate group gatherings that would happen for the start of trout fishing season.

All Port Hope beaches, recreational sports fields, facilities, playgrounds, structures and tennis courts remain closed.

“We continue to monitor our garden spaces to ensure social distancing,” said Edgar. “Only passage use of trails, parks and walkways is permitted for parks not bordering the river.”

Open-air burning is prohibited in Port Hope’s urban area, but special permits can be obtained through the fire department for burning in the rural area.

Outdoor maintenance of municipal amenities has commenced for when the green light is given to reopen. Right now, staff are observing physical distancing as they carry out the work.

Meanwhile, Cobourg’s beach, a popular tourist attraction in the summer, remains open for walking only.

“We’re just following the provincial guidelines,” said Murphy. “It’s open for walking, but not for sunbathing or anything like that.”

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Cobourg’s marina is closed for now, but preparations are being made for when it can reopen.

“We’re prepping all of our services; as the province lifts the closures, we’ll be able to follow the province’s lead on that and reopen,” added Murphy.