The Kingston region’s medical officer of health says residents are still being asked to stay vigilant when it comes to the novel coronavirus, but they shouldn’t be afraid of the the economy opening up, or of local tourism.
“Within Canada now, our risk is exceptionally low and we should celebrate some of the progress we’ve made. And clearly, opening the economy is a celebration of that,” Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health said.
As a community, Moore believes KFL&A has been steadfast when it comes to social distancing practices, and making sure others were as well.
At one point, he says public health was receiving about 100 complaints a day about people and businesses not following social distancing regulations.
“People would were e-mailing me pictures of aggregations of people for the last three months. We would get e-mails every single day of concern, which is great. I mean, that shows that the community is concerned,” Moore said.
He says those complaints have slowed, but are still coming in, especially with the province’s Stage 2 reopening prompting the opening of reduced-capacity patios in the city.
Certain residents have expressed concerns about people from other regions, especially those from Greater Toronto Area, coming into Kingston and spreading the virus locally, especially while visiting restaurant patios.
The Kingston region hasn’t had an active case for over a week, and has only seen a total of 63 cases since the pandemic began.
The premier expressed that same concern when regional reopenings were first floated at a press conference in May, before later acquiescing to allowing certain regions to reopen before others.
Moore says businesses in the Kingston region have reacted quickly to opening with social distancing in mind.
“I’ve been very impressed locally when I’ve gone out and visited businesses. They put up the plexiglass. They have hand hygiene stations. They provide for waiting in line. They provide the appropriate distancing and line management,” Moore said.
He said for restaurants in particular, public health does have the power to inspect and fine those that may not be following the province’s Stage 2 guidelines, but he doesn’t expect that will be happening any time soon.
“We always go by the motto of progressive enforcement. So we educate, we provide best practices, and then if we don’t see and maintained adherence to these best practices, we would step up to the endpoint of having to enforce with with a a fine.”
He added that the pandemic has had a serious social and economic impact on businesses, and public health does not want to add fines that can reach up to $5,000 a day for a business and $25,000 a day for a corporation as another burden.
As for worries over tourists coming to visit Kingston and bringing COVID-19 with them, Moore said the risk of catching the disease across the province, and across the country, has greatly declined.
“Ontario’s really made great strides and the risk in the GTA is going down every day,” Moore said.
This doesn’t mean locals should let their guard down, Moore said, adding that residents should still be laser-focused on keeping themselves and their families safe by washing their hands, wearing masks, and keeping their social group limited to a 10-person bubble.
He also advised those in KFL&A to practice risk assessments before they chose to leave the area or invite anyone from outside in.
However, KFL&A Public Health has given permission to Tourism Kingston to promote tourist activities to populations as far north as Ottawa.
“We advise them if they wanted to expand their advertising and attract all any individuals from southeastern Ontario, that is reasonable at this time,” Moore said.
The medical officer of health said the risk will start to increase dramatically when borders between the United States and Canada become more porous, and Canadians start travelling internationally again.
As for now, he asked those in the Kingston region to remember to be kind to each other, to businesses and to tourists as they start venturing out of the house again.
“From time to time, we’ll need reminders to maintain physical distancing and a reminder if we let our guard down,” Moore said.