Are we still in an emergency?

It’s hard to ignore the numerous contradictions that flow from the rapid assembly and revision of government-issued pandemic rules and regulations.

Most recently we are working through a perplexing situation in which health experts are declaring Ontario currently in the midst of a third wave of COVID-19 infections at the same time provincial officials are relaxing many restrictions.

While the latter action is based on a recent reduction in active cases of the virus, it seems obvious that positive development was a direct result of the stricter restrictions in place earlier.

So no one should be surprised if we experience a resurgence.

Still, so far numbers are holding low in many areas, including the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health region and the arrival of warmer weather should allow people to get outside and be active, even cautiously socialize in that distanced/masked kind of way we’ve more or less become resigned to, without greatly increasing risk levels. Although officials are allowing greater levels of indoor congregation than we’ve seen in some time, there’s nothing stopping us from also exercising caution and good judgement.

Another interesting contradiction was pointed out at the March 16 Mapleton council meeting.

Following up on an inquiry initiated at the Feb. 24 meeting, councillor Michael Martin asked Mayor Gregg Davidson for an update on the status the ongoing emergency declaration by the Township of Mapleton.

On March 23, 2020 Wellington County and all seven of its member municipalities individually declared a state of emergency in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

With the province ending its latest official state of emergency on Feb. 9, Martin asked if it was time to consider lifting the local emergency status.

Fair enough. If the province doesn’t consider the situation an emergency, why does the municipality?

The response from the mayor, while vague, is probably also fair.

“As you know, the province is looking at by June to have the entire province vaccinated, one dose, so that’s not too far off …Until that time, status quo is what everyone is asking for right now,” said Davidson in reference to discussions he’s had with other Wellington County mayors.

The emergency declarations give Warden Kelly Linton and local mayors the ability to make certain decisions that normally require full council approval. While it’s been sparsely used in for the most part, municipalities, lacking the province’s ability to make regulations pretty much at will, are playing it safe by keeping emergency authority in place. Otherwise, the authority to take action in the event a resurgence of the virus were to impact municipal staffing levels or a council’s ability to achieve a quorum, might be questionable.

Lifting the emergency state might also create questions about a municipality’s ability to close or limit access to public buildings, a necessary tool in fighting the spread of COVID-19.

Still, it’s important to review this type of restrictive action on a regular basis to ensure no overreach is taking place and, in that light, the recent discussions sparked by Martin’s inquiries are well worth having.

Strange days indeed

Overheard at a recent Wellington North council meeting.

“I believe we’ve lost the mayor.”

Symptomatic of the combined impact  of virtual meetings and spotty internet service, Mayor Andy Lennox was compelled to drive into the municipal office in order to complete the March 22 council meeting after losing contact from his rural  residence. The meeting resumed after a brief recess, barely missing a beat.

North Wellington Community News