Wellington County aims to end state of emergency on Dec. 31

Linton: 'it's time to start doing what we can to get back to normal life'

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Officials with the county have announced they intend to end a local state of emergency at the end of the year.

A Nov. 10 announcement from the county notes the plan to end the emergency declaration at 11:59pm on Dec. 31 is contingent on the continued decline of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, as well as the progression of the local vaccination campaign for children aged five to 11.

Warden Kelly Linton told the Advertiser he has discussed the matter with Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie and Dufferin County Warden Darren White, who both issued similar notices to residents in their municipalities.

“We agree that it’s time to start doing what we can to get back to normal life,” Linton said.

However, he noted COVID-19 is “not going anywhere” and the virus will be “with us” for some time.

“While there is no longer a need for a local state of emergency to be in place, the pandemic is not over,” he cautioned in a press release.

“I continue to urge all residents to get vaccinated and continue to follow guidance from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.”

Wellington County declared a state of emergency on March 23, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All seven lower-tier municipalities followed suit.

It provides Linton and CAO Scott Wilson with additional authority to take actions deemed necessary “to protect the health, safety, property and welfare of county residents.”

“They weren’t used much at all,” Linton said in an interview of the emergency powers.

Linton told the Advertiser he personally used the emergency authority just once as warden – on June 10, when he signed a county order in support of a public health order mandating masks in indoor settings.

He added Wilson used emergency powers “sparingly” to redeploy staff to assist at the Wellington Terrace Long-Term Care Home and at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Fergus.

In Centre Wellington Township, Linton said he did not personally use emergency powers as mayor and noted CAO Andy Goldie used them to get the sportsplex “up and running” as a mass vaccination clinic.

Linton said as long as local councils can meet regularly – remotely or in person – there is no need to extend the states of emergency any longer.

“We want to do it the right way,” he said of decisions, noting it is important to involve council in publicly-accessible meetings and discussions.

Linton noted municipalities that declare a state of emergency, including Centre Wellington and the county, will have a report come to council within the next two months or so that outlines when and how emergency powers were used by the CAO and head of council.

In all local cases, the warden said emergency powers were used to support the efforts of public health officials to keep people safe during the pandemic.

He noted Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer is in support of ending the local states of emergency at the end fo the year.

In the Nov. 10 press release Mercer stated that, “After nearly 20 months of a global pandemic, it is time to chart a path back to something more normal for all of us.

“I applaud our municipal partners for all they have done to protect residents from COVID-19 and look forward to charting a careful end to restrictions that reflects the reality and needs of our communities.”

Mercer added, “Ending the pandemic is a job for all of us. Please continue to follow public health guidance so that as we approach the time to ease restrictions, we are as safe and as ready as we can be.”

All seven lower-tier municipalities in Wellington County also declared a state of emergency in March of 2020 in response to the pandemic

Erin and Mapleton ended their declarations last month and Centre Wellington has announced it will end its state of emergency at the end of the year.

“We are thankful for the leadership and direction from the Warden/Mayor Linton, and our ongoing partnership with member municipalities to keep our citizens safe during the pandemic,” Centre Wellington CAO Andy Goldie stated in a Nov. 10 press release.

“For the past 20 months we have made numerous decisions that have kept our COVID-19 numbers low and resulted in a successful partnership with the county and [WDGPH] to host a vaccine clinic at the CW Community Sportsplex.

“This vaccine hub, which is still operating, has seen thousands of people through its doors, allowing us to see a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.”