After previously resisting the idea of a regional approach to reopening the province amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford is now considering the idea as long as there is an increase in coronavirus testing.
The City of Kingston is one city that has been anxious to reopen its economy as the region has consistently shown low case numbers, with only one case as of May 31.
In early May, a letter addressed to Ford and signed by the mayor of Kingston, the wardens of Lennox and Addington and Frontenac County and the head of KFL&A Public Health asked the premier to consider allowing the region to ease lockdown measures based on local data.
Ford rejected that request by the city to lift COVID-19 restrictions.
But now, Ford says: “All options are on the table.”
“We’re really encouraged by what we’ve heard from the province,” said Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson.
“More and more people are seeing that a one-size-fits-all approach for Ontario just isn’t working. I really think it’s worth that second look.”
After several months of closures across the city, local businesses are beginning to reopen their doors.
Starting June 1, some physiotherapy clinics and spas in the downtown core are opening with cautionary measures in place.
“When we heard the announcement last week, we were thrilled and glad that we put the work in early to be ready to open on Monday,” said Scott Fraser, co-owner of the K-Town Physiotherapy clinic.
On May 26, the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario, together with Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, officially allowed physiotherapists to operate provided safety protocols were followed.
Staff at the K-Town Physiotherapy clinic, located on King Street, prepared for reopening by using plexiglass at their reception desk and purchasing masks and extra sanitization stations.
Fraser says the hardest part of being forced to close when the pandemic hit has been trying to maintain a viable business.
“We have a great staff of 30-plus people, and then all of a sudden, everyone was out of work,” Fraser said.
But the idea of reopening regionally has given K-Town the first step to getting back on track. And since close interactions are essential in treating their clients, staff at K-Town are making some changes to continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“The physiotherapists, our assistants and the clients themselves will all have masks on, and we have the beds spread out appropriately for physical distancing,” Fraser said.
While Kingston isn’t totally in the clear, KFL&A Public Health has reported that the number of COVID-19 cases in the area has remained low over the past month, with only one case reported in the last seven days. There have been 63 reported cases in total in the region, with 62 resolved as of Monday.
This has given some local businesses the green light to open with caution.
“We’re happy to get back to work and see some familiar faces, even if it’s behind a mask,” said Fraser.