Grey-Bruce MOH discouraging non-essential travel

By: Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times
BRUCE COUNTY – Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health for Grey-Bruce, updated county council on three matters involving COVID-19 during the March 4 council meeting.
The first was good news. With the daily number of new cases of COVID-19 averaging between zero and four, there is full control over the pandemic in this area. The single outbreak at one long-term care facility (as of the March 4 date of the meeting) is well controlled, Arra said.
He thanked council and the general public for their efforts in achieving this.
The second issue involved non-essential travel, in particular, people travelling from other health unit areas to this one. Arra said Grey Bruce Public Health has issued a media release “urging ongoing vigilance.”
He said businesses such as hairdressers are being asked to turn away people from outside the area.
Non-essential travel is of concern because of the variants in different areas.
The issue received further discussion later in the meeting.
The third matter on which Arra provided an update was vaccines.
“We have robust plans ready; everything is in place. The main barrier is supply,” he said, adding that he expected “plenty of supply by late March.”
Those in the long-term care sector have begun receiving their second dose of the vaccine. Others being vaccinated are EMS, police, fire and people aged 80-plus.
He noted there’s some concern being expressed about how people without a family physician will be able to arrange to get their shot.
“We have been piloting software for the province. By March 15, people will be able to register themselves,” Arra told council.
He said that had the province not provided this, the local health unit had their own plan ready.
During the question period, the conversation shifted back to travel.
“Travel is discouraged,” said Arra, adding there’s always a danger people will bring the virus with them when they travel outside their area.
Coun. Luke Charbonneau drew attention to the border between Grey-Bruce, and Simcoe County.
“We’re green and they’re in lockdown,” he said. “We know about (sports) teams, but what about individuals travelling outside our area to play sports.”
Arra said the border is a source of his own concern. It won’t be an issue right away, but over a couple of weeks, as food supplies run out and people start needing haircuts, he anticipates there may be an issue.
As for controlling travel between zones, Arra prefers the least invasive method – education and information.
County Coun. Chris Peabody, mayor of Brockton, said his municipality had banned outsiders from the local arena – there’s a hockey school that used to take people from Simcoe, he said.
“We’re going to double down on our decision,” said Peabody.
County Coun. Anne Eadie, mayor of Kincardine, drew attention to a place like Lucknow, which has no grocery store and is situated on the border between counties. There are three places people go for groceries – Goderich, Wingham and Kincardine, and especially in winter, they choose the closest.
“Your approach – education and common sense – is good,” she said.
Warden Janice Jackson, mayor of South Bruce Peninsula, told council about the spring edition of the quarterly publication, Niagara Escarpment Views. The front page of the spring edition has the headline, “COVID Escape to the Bruce Trail.”
“They’re encouraging people to escape COVID to the Bruce Trail!” said Jackson.
She invited her Northern Bruce Peninsula counterpart, Milt McIver, to co-write with her a letter to the editor of the publication.
Arra said grocery shopping is a lower-risk activity than some, like hockey. Business owners are being encouraged to look at their own level of risk.