Kingston’s medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, has strong words for people considering coming to the Kingston region because of its new regional COVID-19 green status: essentially, they are not welcome.
“This green is for us. It’s for our community. And I, frankly, think we deserve it. But it’s not for anywhere else in Ontario that is not in green,” he said.
Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) is one of only three regions in Ontario that will be out of the province’s stay-at-home order Wednesday. The rest of the province, save the Greater Toronto Area, will be moving into the colour-coded system Feb. 16.
Moore said he’s greatly concerned that people from outside the region will flock to Kingston’s open bars, restaurants and services, and bring the virus, or worse the variants, with them.
Moore is so concerned that he said the health unit is considering issuing a public health order that would require businesses to ask for identification from customers and deny access to anyone who is not from the Kingston region.
“The travel limitations that we could impose could be for personal service settings, for bars and restaurants to only serve those from KFLA, for example, or those from a green zoned area,” he said.
Such an order could also require businesses to screen for symptoms, and deny services on those grounds.
He said as of right now, it’s within local businesses’ rights to ID people and refuse them service if they are from out of town, although he is not suggesting business-owners do that.
Travel restrictions will not be the first course of action, but he he starts to notice significant travel to the area, or if variants of concern start to infiltrate the region through travel links, Moore said the health unit will start imposing restrictions the province so far has not.
“I don’t want to be too, too aggressive for an event that may not occur. But I also don’t want to be naïve to think that people won’t come here,” he said.
The medical officer of health said that travel within the southeastern corridor is safe, which includes the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark and the Hastings and Prince Edward catchment areas. The latter will also be moving to the province’s green status Wednesday.
Moore said the risk of infection multiplies significantly when residents travel to hot spots in the province, or when people from those regions enter the Kingston region.
“We haven’t solved that issue of travel within the province. We haven’t significantly limited it. And it’s been this constant source of outbreaks and infections in our jurisdiction,” Moore said.
He said he’s been in constant communication with the chief medical officer of health about the potential dangers of travelling within the province.
“As further areas of the province open, they’re not going to be opening to green. The vast majority of regions with the highest density of in our province are all red,” he said.
As of Tuesday, he said the local health unit is waiting on information from the province on tweaks to its green level restrictions, and that any decisions made locally will depend on those changes.
He said for now, he does not condone any recreational travel into the region until the broader population is immunized, and hopes that the local community will support southeastern region businesses.
“The purpose of us going green is to allow people within KFL&A to support their local economy, to stay home, stay safe, continue to save lives and support our local businesses,” he said.
As of Tuesday, the Kingston region has 15 active cases of the virus.