Mandatory face coverings for indoor public spaces only a matter of time in St. Thomas and Elgin


city_scope_logo-cmykThis past week Dr. Joyce Lock, Southwestern Public Health medical officer of health, issued a Section 22 order under Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act dealing with the need to self-isolate for 14 days if you have symptoms of or are diagnosed with COVID-19.
The order covers the health unit’s coverage area which includes St. Thomas along with Oxford and Elgin counties.
Dr. Lock, in conjunction with provincial health officials, has been stressing the need to self-isolate for more than four months and the order puts some muscle behind this.
Failing to comply could result in a fine of up to $5,000 for every day in which an individual fails to self-isolate.
It appears no coincidence the order, which came into effect yesterday (July 24), comes as the region sees a spike in COVID-19 confirmed cases.


The issuance of the order surely is a precursor to the mandatory wearing of face coverings while in indoor public places, likely to incur within the next couple of weeks.
myFM talked with Dr. Lock about the need for the Section 22 order.
She confirmed the order does “give the direction a bit more teeth and it does run with repercussions, but I think the key message is not about teeth and repercussions.
Dr. Joyce Lock“The key message is that as part of Stage 3 re-opening, it’s really important that people with symptoms or who are in contact with COVID patients really do take self-isolation seriously.
“I know it’s really tough to stay indoors for 14 days, that’s a long time for a lot of us and we are often very much committed to our responsibilities in various areas . . . and I think the message we’re trying to get across is if we’re going to beat COVID locally, people have to self-isolate for those 14 days.”
Dr. Lock also passed along this advisory.
“People aren’t infectious for that whole period of time. It usually means that the virus has damaged their lungs and their body to a point it takes that long for them to heal.
“But you’re really only infectious for the beginning part of it.”
There is now a strong case supporting evidence people may become infected two or three days before exhibiting any symptoms of illness.
Because of that, Dr. Lock adds “That is why we are strongly encouraging people to wear a mask in public, particularly indoors when you can’t keep six feet apart so that in case you feel 100 per cent fine, your respiratory droplets and saliva is shedding virus, you only shed it into your mask.”
So for those vehemently opposed to the wearing of masks, it’s not about protecting you from others, it’s about protecting others from you should you be a silent carrier of the virus.

“I think that really helps the public as well. They benefit from consistent practices and therefore with this masking, we’re working step in step with our municipal partners to make it as simple a process as possible for individuals, businesses and organizations across our geography.”

And you should be thankful others care enough about your welfare that they are wearing face coverings.
Keep that in mind as the number of positive cases has increased substantially over the past week.
So, to the mandatory wearing of face coverings, Dr. Lock advises “It is something we are looking at.
“It is on the horizon and we are working through some final steps with our municipal partners and once those are completed, hopefully, we will be open to the public about the new direction.”
In other words, such a mandate would have to be coordinated with all municipalities across the health unit’s coverage area.
“I think that really helps the public as well. They benefit from consistent practices and therefore, with this masking, we’re working step in step with our municipal partners to make it as simple a process as possible for individuals, businesses and organizations across our geography.”
It’s the new normal up in London as residents here have found out and it’s encouraging to see the voluntary wearing of face coverings in indoor settings in St. Thomas.
“And that’s what I appreciate about our community that, overall, our community has stepped up and tried to all play their part in keeping COVID under control.
“I appreciate the actions that people are already doing to follow our guidance around masking.”
Now, does Dr. Lock see the need to support the mandatory wearing of face coverings with local bylaws?
“That is part of the discussions and that is completely up to their discretion and so I leave it in their hands. They know their communities and they know how best to manage their communities.
“I will defer to their wisdom on that.”

THE RETURN OF SPORTS

Seldom has a council meeting – a special meeting of council at that – been almost entirely devoted to sports and recreation.
Such was the case this past Thursday (July 23) as members dealt with the possible return of baseball and soccer in addition to the opening of Jaycees Pool for the month of August.
We’ll deal with soccer as a separate issue but it’s a go for baseball and you will need to find another way to cool off in what has been one of the hotter summers of late.
By an 8-0 vote (Coun. Mark Tinlin was absent), council voted to allow various recreational leagues to again play the summer game at the Doug Tarry Complex and Cardinal Field.
As for a summer splash over at Jaycees, that went down the drain by a 5-3 vote with the support for opening coming from councillors Lori Baldwin-Sands, Gary Clarke and Jim Herbert.
During discussion on the status of baseball, Coun. Steve Peters wondered whether the city was leaving itself vulnerable by allowing players to return to the diamonds.
City manager Wendell Graves assured council, “It is our understanding there are very tight and rigid policies relating to play and opening up facilities that any teams would have to follow.
“I am pretty comfortable that we are safe unless we do something that is totally against the policies and we would not put ourselves in that position.”
As to Mayor Joe Preston’s query on whether the fields are ready for action, Ross Tucker, the city’s director of parks, recreation and property management noted, “They will be ready for play with the couple of weeks we’re allowing ourselves to get them ready.
“We should be up to snuff to get them playable.”
He added tournaments of any sort are a no-go at this point.

“There are baseball groups who can then tell us how they are going to manage their groups. The pool is an individualistic piece and requires reservations so we know who is coming and when.”

Debate on the pool re-opening was a little more involved with talk on the need for as many as eight full- and part-time lifeguards at a cost of approximately $40,000 for the month of August.
Coun. Baldwin-Sands questioned the need for that many lifeguards and also challenged Tucker’s assertion the pool could not stay open beyond Labour Day as the lifeguards – who are mainly university students – would have departed.
But it was Coun. Clarke who waded into the thorny issue of hockey, which is just around the corner.
He correctly noted the two city arenas lose money hand over fist.
“I hate to turn down the pool now and spend a lot more money later on hockey,” noted Clarke.
The road ahead just doesn’t get any easier for council during a pandemic.
We spoke with Mayor Preston on Friday about the complexities of a return to sports.
He suggested by limiting baseball to the two venues, “we’re helping with our staff – which we don’t have many of at the moment – being able to concentrate their efforts in localized areas.”
As for Jaycees Pool, yes, it is a tough decision.
“There are baseball groups who can tell us how they are going to manage their groups. The pool is an individualistic piece and requires reservations so we know who is coming and when.”
Pool use would have been limited to 30 people at a session in 75-minute time blocks, “but they would have had to register online which requires a cost to us to have someone taking the reservations.
“So there were some additional costs that weren’t normal to the pool.”
He conceded other communities are opening their pools, “but they’re finding some difficulties and we just said we are a community with three splash pads with a brand new one this year.
“It was a tough, heart-felt decision but we needed to do it.”

HOUSE LEAGUE SOCCER RETURNS

In a decision made by the St. Thomas Soccer Club, house league play will return in a limited fashion for August and September.
soccer ballIn a conversation this week with Phil Trueman and Rob Cameron from the club, they outlined details of their modified program that will focus on the basics and the fun aspect of the beautiful game.
Registration is now underway with divisions ranging from U-8 to U-18 beginning Aug. 8 for eight Saturdays. All games to be played at Parkside Collegiate Institute.
Trueman said, “We’re trying to make this as cheap as possible given parents’ concerns at the moment.
“We really want a good turnout so kids can take part in some soccer activity this year.”
With an eye to COVID-19 restrictions, the younger kids will be cautioned to avoid clusters of players chasing the ball at the same time.
Cameron added this will be a true house league schedule with no travel involved and no teams from outside the city coming here to play.
“There is no crossover between our program and any other program,” he stressed.
He advised there may be adult recreational leagues formed for play Sundays at Parkside.
Registration is now open and you can do so online at stthomassoccer.com.

THE READER’S WRITE

On our coverage of the sale of Trinity Anglican Church, Lara Leitch, former vice-principal of Alma College forwarded this interesting challenge.

“As long as the current city council is in power, don’t expect any proper salvation for Trinity Anglican Church. Their actions regarding Alma College spoke loudly as to what they honour as heritage property.
Not much.
They had the OMB decision cancelled to create so-called luxury block apartments.
Alma College too was started in 1877. Since there will be no adequate recognition and salute to what was Alma’s architectural, cultural and historical heritage, would someone consider doing an authentic representational mural of Alma College on one of the buildings of St. Thomas?”

Still with Trinity Anglican Church, Deb Hardy cuts right to the chase.

“My own feeling on the church is as long as it doesn’t become the taxpayer’s expense what happens to it, let it play out.”

On the matter of opening Jaycees Pool for the month of August, Allan Mills writes the fact it is still closed is a failure on the part of Mayor Joe Preston and some members of council.

“The fact that the pool was not opened when others in the area were actually up and running shows the immense failure of this mayor and some of council along with the city manager in managing issues that are important to the community.
Instead of worrying about the sky falling from this pandemic they should consider the direction of the health experts. Look to the market bungle a few weeks ago.”

As for last week’s item on the protest by Ontario nurses, Nancy Mayberry zeroes in on pay equity.

“Yet another example of how Conservatives feel about women in the workplace. They are against funding childcare for low-income single women forcing them into welfare which they then also blame on women not wanting to work.
When they do get work their pay is less than men doing the same sort of work. When will they ever get it that women will not stand for this!”

Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.

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