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Local municipalities, firms react to COVID-19 pandemic

March 19, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

A variety of local events have been cancelled and community-wide shutdowns initiated as the global COVID-19 pandemic intensifies.

The Town of Orangeville announced some closures on Saturday (March 14), and by noon Wednesday virtually all municipal buildings were closed to the public, including the Town Hall. Tony Rose Arena, Alder Recreation Centre and Orangeville Public Library, and the municipality also cancelled all council and committee meetings, public consultations and public gatherings will be postponed for at least three weeks. The Town is also closing the Orangeville & District senior centre.

While it was announced, initially, that Town Hall would remain open with reduced hours, municipal staff took the decision to close all facilities to the public on Tuesday afternoon. The Town is encouraging residents and businesses to interact with the municipality online instead of in-person, as much as possible. 

All March Break events and activities scheduled to take place at Alder Recreation Centre and the Orangeville Library have been cancelled. 

“We recognize the risk remains low, but out of an abundance of caution, we have made the difficult decision to cancel public programs and meetings until April 6,” Mayor Sandy Brown said. “We regret the inconvenience this will cause, but at this time we believe this is the best course of action based on information available from the federal and provincial governments, as well as our local public health unit.”

The Town of Mono was quick to follow suit. On Sunday, the municipality announced it too would cancel all council and committee meetings, public consultations and public gatherings until April 6, while also closing Mono Park Pavilion and the Mono Community Centre. 

Mono Town Hall will remain open but visitors are asked to self-screen before entering the building. Enhanced screening may be established at the Town Hall in the coming days.

“We understand from our local public health unit that our risk remains low. However, under these challenging times, we have taken this appropriate step to assist in reducing further spread of the virus,” said Mono Mayor Laura Ryan. 

Humber College and Georgian College in Orangeville announced over the weekend that it would cease delivery of on-site classes this week, with staff and faculty given direction to plan for remote delivery of classes beginning on March 23. 

Elsewhere, Dufferin Oaks, the long-term care facility for senior citizens in Shelburne, has implemented lockdown procedures on-site. Under the direction of the Ministry of Long-Term Care, the Oaks will only allow essential visitors to enter the facility until further notice. Essential visitors are being identified as those who have a resident who is dying, or very ill living at the home. All essential visitors will need to meet the active screen protocols currently in place to gain entry. 

“We understand that this is a significant change for residents and their families. The health and well-being of our residents is our number one priority and pro-active measures such as this are being taken across sectors to limit the spread of COVID-19,” a Dufferin County press release states. 

In Orangeville, the Lord Dufferin Centre senior residence initially implemented screening practices to enhance protection for residents, staff and visitors but now is also under a lockdown, as is the case with the Chartwell Montgomery Village retirement home.. 

Almost all community events across the region have been cancelled or postponed. The Orangeville Lions Home and Garden Show, set to run April 3, 4 and 5, has been cancelled. 

“In the 23-year history of the Orangeville Lions Home and Garden Show, this is the first time we have had to suspend operations and underscores the importance of the measures being undertaken by Ontario’s chief Medical Officer of Health,” said Steve Warren, President of the Orangeville Lions Club. “The safety of our community and vendors is our primary concern. Sadly, the non-refundable expenses leading up to this event and the loss of our fundraising profits will have a major impact in our community for the next year.”

The Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) suspended all games province-wide last Thursday, essentially ending the season for all teams and leagues in Dufferin County. Away from sports, with the closure of the Orangeville Opera House, all future productions of Theatre Orangeville’s Too Close To Home, originally set to run until March 29, have been cancelled. Alton Mill Arts Centre will also be closed until further notice. 

Credit Valley Conservation has cancelled its 2020 Sugarbush Maple Syrups Festival, set to take place at the Terra Cotta and Island Lake Conservation Areas. The event was set to take place at Island Lake for the next two weekends, and at Terra cotta for the next three weekends. Grand River Conservation Authority has closed all of its nature centres to the public, and has cancelled all March Break camps in light of the outbreak, which has seen 212 people infected across Ontario, as of press time. 

While most businesses in Orangeville have remained open throughout the pandemic, some corporations began adjusting their position on Monday. Tim Hortons announced it would be closing all dining room seating at restaurants across the country, with only takeout, drive-thru and delivery options available. Goodlife Fitness, which has a gym in Orangeville, has closed all of its facilities across the country effective Tuesday (March 17), with no reopening date announced. 

Things have been changing on an almost daily basis this week. On Monday, the provincial government indicated all bars, restaurants and food establishments should stop in-person service to help control the spread of COVID-19, then on Tuesday declared a state of emergency, which bans organized public events of more than 50 and orders bars and restaurants who do not offer a takeout service to shut their doors. 

“We’re facing an unprecedented time in our history,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said. “This is a decision that was not made lightly. COVID-19 constitutes a danger of major proportions.”

Ontario had already, last Thursday, taken the decision to close all publicly funded schools across the province until April 6. The new shutdown orders take effect immediately and apply to all private schools, recreation facilities providing indoor programs, licensed daycares, places of worship, theatres and music venues. The orders will last until March 31. 



         

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