Much like their Kingston counterparts, rural areas in eastern Ontario are now starting to reopen.
The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark region was officially upgraded to the green level on Tuesday, meaning non-essential businesses were allowed to reopen again.
That is good news for local businesses, and shows that the residents of the area have been responsible and following public health orders, according to the medical officer of health for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Public Health.
“We are in green-prevent because collectively, as a community, we’ve been following the precautions,” says Dr. Paula Stewart.
“That prevents transmission and prevents people from getting infected, hospitalizations and outbreaks at long-term care homes and schools.”
Since reopening on Tuesday, downtown Brockville is seeing an increase in downtown motorists and pedestrians. That is good for business and keeping the downtown going, but Stewart wants to remind residents that just because things are open again, does not mean life is back to normal just yet.
“Going green doesn’t mean we can now have lots of social interaction face to face,” says Stewart.
“It means we need to continue to be really careful and follow all of the precautions.”
Some businesses, such as restaurants and certain retail shops, have been able to pivot their business models to adhere to the province’s ever-changing lockdown measures. Restaurants have shifted to delivery and curbside pickup to stay afloat, but they say those methods just don’t quite beat being truly open for business.
“We’ve been open for takeout and for beer store sales, but that doesn’t compare to having people inside,” says Amanda Brown, the front of house manager for 1000 Islands Brewing Company in Brockville.
“To be reopening is just so much better for our customers and staff.”
But there are other businesses that weren’t so fortunate and were unable to change their business models.
One of those stores is Alan Browns Clothiers in downtown Brockville. Dave Shaw, the store’s owner, says certain small businesses were treated unfairly compared to big box stores.
“It’s very unfortunate that small businesses were mandated to be locked down and allowing bigger stores to be open and channelling hundreds of people through bigger stores, and not allowing us to have even one or two customers at a time,” he says.
“Don’t get me wrong — we needed public safety measures, but everyone should have been involved in the lockdown, and our Ontario government was wrong there.”