In response to growing concerns over COVID-19 in Eastern Ontario, the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (SD&G), the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) and the City of Cornwall declared a state of emergency Thursday.
SDG Warden and South Glengarry Mayor Frank Prevost said that by declaring an emergency, the counties would be able to access additional resources. He added that lower tier municipalities, like North and South Glengarry, do not have to make similar declarations at this time.
“Declaring a state of emergency is not a decision we took lightly, but it was the right decision to make,” says Bernadette Clement, Mayor of the City of Cornwall. “This will help us to come together more effectively to care for the most vulnerable among us, to deploy needed action quickly, and to efficiently coordinate preventive measures.”
Although there have only been four confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the combined jurisdictions to date, there are over 300 tests with results still pending.
Public health authorities fear the virus is now spreading on two fronts: through the community from one individual to another, as well as area residents returning from their travels abroad.
“Over 50 per cent of cases in Canada are not linked to individuals who have travelled abroad or been in contact with people who did,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU).
“This means there is now community spread of COVID-19 across the country, and our area will be no exception.” The increasing threat of COVID-19 points to the importance of physical distancing as a measure to counter its spread. The public is therefore being asked to stay home as much as possible and to avoid all non-essential outings. When going out for absolute essentials like groceries and medication, everyone must maintain a minimum distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from one another.
Mr. Prevost states that while residents shouldn’t panic about the state of emergency, they should take public health advisories very seriously. “I want residents to understand that we have taken this measure to enable us to access additional resources to respond to COVID-19.”
Pierre Leroux, Warden of Prescott-Russell, echoes Mr. Prevost’s message. “While the situation regarding COVID-19 is still manageable in our area, declaring a state of emergency will allow the redeployment of county resources, such as personnel and equipment, to where we need them most.”
Mandatory 14-day quarantine for returning travellers
Authorities at all levels of government are reminding residents that a 14-day quarantine is now mandatory for all Canadians returning from travel outside of the country. Returning travellers must go straight home upon their return to the country, and rely on help from family, friends, their municipality and local agencies for anything they need. For more information about COVID-19, please consult EOHU.ca/coronavirus, Ontario’s website at Ontario.ca/coronavirus, where you’ll find a self-assessment tool, and the federal government’s website at Canada.ca/coronavirus.