Call centre closure is discouraging but ‘there’s lots of room for optimism going forward’


city_scope_logo-cmykMonday’s (June 29) announcement may have caught some city officials off guard, however for the 230 employees at the Marriott International call centre in St. Thomas, they had an inkling something was up the week before.
They had been told a video conference call was scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, leaving them to fret the weekend away as to what lay ahead.
In this COVID-19 world, where the travel and hospitality sectors have been particularly hard hit, an announcement the call centre here and another one in San Antonio, Texas were to be shuttered later this summer really should come as no surprise.
Between the travel restrictions still in place and, before that, the ease of booking trips and hotel rooms online, the warning signs were clearly present.

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In the picture: A body camera pilot project for the St. Thomas Police Service


city_scope_logo-cmykIn a move “to ensure the city has a police service accountable to those they serve,” the St. Thomas Police Service will soon undertake a pilot project to evaluate the use of body cameras.
The decision to proceed with the test was approved Wednesday by the Police Services Board, advised chairman Dave Warden.
He continued, “The St. Thomas Police Services Board supports building public trust, community support and enhancing officer safety and public safety.”
We caught up with Police Chief Chris Herridge the next day for insight into the partnership with Axon Public Safety Canada, which supplies the service with Tasers.
The critical first step, stressed Herridge, is the trial run with a limited number of officers over a yet-to-be-determined period of time.

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The Horton Market: Getting it right in a ‘COVID-19 2020 world’


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter enduring a painful three months of coronavirus cancellations, curtailments and closures, this has been an extraordinary week for positive, time-to-move-forward announcements.
Let’s begin with Monday’s (June 8) meeting where council revisited its May 19 split decision to leave the tables empty this summer at the Horton Market.
Five members of council – Mayor Joe Preston and councillors Jeff Kohler, Gary Clarke, Joan Rymal and Mark Tinlin – reconsidered their previous non-support which resulted in a unanimous vote to proceed with opening the popular market on June 20.
The market board of directors submitted a revised plan of operation with enhanced COVID-19 restrictions which assured all members of council the health and safety of both vendors and customers would be a top priority.

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The Horton Market: An event or a shopping experience?


city_scope_logo-cmykCity hall is the battleground this week in a growing controversy.
Literally.
The central player in all of this is the Horton Market and whether it should be allowed to open at the end of the month to provide a sales venue for area fruit and vegetable growers, among others.
On Tuesday (May 19) city council, by a 5-4 margin, defeated a motion to provide a letter of support for plans to be submitted to the health unit allowing the popular Saturday market to open for the season under COVID-19 restrictions.
We’ll break down that vote in a few minutes.
It didn’t take long for the controversy to flare up, not unlike the divisive environment associated with debate around the city’s twin-pad arena and the new police headquarters.

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‘We’ve been able to bend the curve, but we’re not out of the woods yet’


city_scope_logo-cmykThey are not included in the daily tally issued by health units across the province – including Southwestern Public Health in this area – and yet these individuals have been victimized and their lives put on hold by the coronavirus.
And last week’s release of the framework to be adhered to by hospitals is a welcome ray of hope for those whose elective surgeries and procedures also fell victim to COVID-19.
Although it may still be several weeks before ramping up the numbers, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital president and CEO Robert Biron says the preparatory work is underway.
Speaking with him yesterday (Friday), Biron advised the immediate task is to work with other hospitals in the region to create a joint plan so that all hospitals are working “in a lockstep approach.”
He adds, “There is a lot of complexity involved in that because there is a pandemic we have to account for.

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The funding is not a concern, the worry is the financial accountability on the part of city hall


city_scope_logo-cmykWell, wasn’t that quite the diatribe this week from Vishal Chityal and his counter ego Charlie Duke over at SupportiveLiving.ca. The lengthy Facebook posting was in response to last week’s item on COVID-19 precautions that may be in place at Walnut Manor, a home operated by SupportiveLiving.ca.
There hasn’t been pushback like that from Vishal/Charlie in the six years we’ve documented conditions at Walnut Manor, beginning with the closure of the kitchen by the health unit in 2014.
So, why is that?
And, the detailed itemization of the many protocols now in place at the facility including increased sanitization, temperature monitoring and PPE for frontline staff.

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Yes, St. Thomas Transit buses are being cleaned and sanitized. But, in a COVID-19 world, when did this begin?


city_scope_logo-cmykWith cramped quarters and no exit doors near the rear of the buses to keep passengers distant from drivers, is it safe to ride St. Thomas Transit in these far-from-normal times?
Well, it appears this week much attention is being paid to the safety of passengers and drivers. But what about the situation over the last month when the transit system was operating a regular service while others in the province had shut down or substantially reduced hours.
And, larger operators with full-sized transit buses could take the front door out of service and have passengers enter and exit the vehicles through the rear door, well away from drivers.
With the city’s fleet of what can only be described as glorified airport parking shuttle buses, the above is not an option.

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Could the former St. Thomas psychiatric hospital go from movie set to front-line player in the COVID-19 pandemic?


city_scope_logo-cmykLet’s pray it never reaches this stage – and to date, there is no indication St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital is about to be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients – however, the president of OPSEU is urging the province “to look for creative ways to combat the spread of the coronavirus.”
Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas is urging the Doug Ford government to consider opening portions of previously shuttered regional mental health centres including the facility south of St. Thomas and the Rideau Regional Centre in Smiths Falls to ease a potential capacity crisis in the healthcare system.
In a media release issued last month, Thomas noted, “They can be used for currently hospitalized alternative care patients or as dedicated COVID-19 centres to relieve pressure on our hospitals. Let’s be proactive. Now is the time for action.”

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How’s that social distancing working out for ya?


city_scope_logo-cmykHave to admit, we haven’t experienced a week like this since, what, the 2008 financial meltdown? Wall-to-wall coronavirus coverage with the city unveiling its balanced approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and city manager Wendell Graves suggesting the management team likely would not have to declare an emergency.
A day later and the Doug Ford government did exactly that.
City hall closed, municipal facilities all shuttered. Students on furlough for at least a couple of weeks.
Ditto for many of their parents.
Have you ever seen traffic on Talbot Street downtown so sporadic?
Do you think life will return to normal on April 6?
Do you think COVID-19 gives a tinker’s damn about a calendar date?

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