Troy Shantz & George Mathewson
Despite having fewer than two dozen active COVID-19 cases and a steadily declining infection rate, Sarnia-Lambton was not included in Ontario second phase of economic reopening Monday.
Twenty-four of Ontario’s 34 public health units will be allowed to reopen malls, restaurant patios, pools, beaches, hair salons and other amenities starting Friday.
The other 10, including Sarnia-Lambton and the Toronto, Hamilton and Windsor areas, will need to wait for now.
Neighbouring Chatham-Kent and London-Middlesex are among the list of 24 regions included in Stage 2 of the reopening.
Ontario is increasing the limit on social gatherings from five to 10 people in all parts of the province, including Sarnia-Lambton, starting Friday. And all Ontario churches will be allowed to operate at 30% capacity.
Premier Doug Ford said the decision to allow some areas to begin Stage 2 was made in consultation the Chief Medical Officer of Health and local health officials.
But Lambton Public Health issued a release Monday saying it is reviewing details of the announcement to obtain a better understanding of the criteria used by the province.
“Lambton is currently performing well in key public health COVID-19 indicators such as lower rates of transmission, increased capacity in hospitals, and progress made in testing, it said.
While Stage 2-excluded jurisdictions tend to have the highest rates of COVID-19, Sarnia-Lambton isn’t one of them.
As of Monday the county had 19 active COVID-19 cases, its lowest level since late March.
In a letter to Premier Ford on Friday, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley questioned the province’s plan to open regions independently of each other.
“As a community that sees higher amounts of tourism in the summer months, we have concerns that a premature regionalized re-opening may draw people to our area, flood our beaches and parks, placing our community at unnecessary risk,” Bradley wrote.
The mayor said today he was confused by Sarnia-Lambton’s omission from Stage 2.
“We came to this as a province, we should exit as a province,” he told The Journal.
“People are extremely mobile and the idea that you can have geographic boundary to control the movement of people… is absolute nonsense.”
Bradley said Ontario has offered no clear criteria for qualifying for Stage 2, a process he likened to a game show.
“So every Friday people have to wait to see if the premier has pulled their Powerball to open.”
While Sarnia-Lambton must remain at Stage 1 for now, other counties will be allowed to open:
* Outdoor dine-in services at restaurants, bars and other establishments, including patios, curbside, parking lots and adjacent properties;
* Personal care services including tattoo parlours, barber shops, hair salons and beauty salons
* Shopping malls under existing restrictions, including food services reopening for take-out and outdoor dining only
* Bus and bike tours, and walking, bus and boat tours, as well as tasting and tours for wineries, breweries and distilleries
* Outdoor splash pads, wading pools, and all swimming pools
* Beach access and additional camping at Ontario Parks, and
camping at private campgrounds
* Outdoor recreational facilities and training for outdoor team sports
* Drive-in and drive-through venues for theatres, concerts, animal attractions and cultural appreciation, such as art installations
* Weddings and funerals, with limits on social gatherings to 10 people.