BROCKVILLE -- Leeds, Grenville and Lanark County has the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in Ontario.

The latest statistics show there are 247 laboratory confirmed cases in Brockville and across Leeds, Grenville and Lanark County, including 32 deaths.

The deaths include a Brockville woman who passed away this week due to COVID-19 complications. Eighteen residents of Almonte Country Haven have also passed away due to COVID-19.

The COVID-19 infection rate in the county is 143.2 cases per 100,000 people. The next highest is Peel Region, with 74.4 cases per 100,000 people.

The numbers are skewed, however, as most of the positive cases have been linked to long-term care and retirement homes across Leeds, Grenville and Lanark County.

The City of Brockville, the largest population centre in the county, has fared quite well. Mayor Jason Baker says that people have been listening to the advice of health officials, limiting essential trips and practicing physical distancing.

“We’ve been very happy at the level of compliance. I think our residents and our businesses understand that they have a role to play in this and they’ve been doing very well,” said Baker.

“In Brockville, we’re the local seat for manufacturing in our region so there are still a number of people at work, so our weekdays are a little busier than in some areas.”

While there have been some complaints about gatherings over five people and some people not practicing physical distancing, Brockville Police have not issued any tickets and are instead educating the public during their interactions.

“We are doing everything we can proactively so that we are not in a ticketing situation, but we'll go to ticketing when warranted,” Baker said.

“It’s when citizens don’t comply or if a police officer has to come back a second time, that’s when we can expect ticketing to happen.”

On April 15, Brockville extended its moratorium on events until June 30, a decision the Mayor says was not taken lightly.

“We are a tourism city. That is one of sort of three main cogs in our economy especially in the summertime,” Baker said.

“There’s a number of festivals and celebrations that will be impacted, and there are fundraising events that are integral to those operations that are going to have to get rescheduled or cancelled.”

Events affected include the Brockville Regatta and Brockville Pride Festival. Canada Day celebrations will likely be postponed as well.

“We’ll find a way to celebrate our country’s birthday in a different way. Who knows, maybe Canada Day will fall in October this year,” Baker said.

The impact on small businesses in the city is also something the Mayor is keeping a close eye on.

“The picture doesn’t look fantastic. We are hearing of one or two closures by the end of this month, that their plan is not to re-open and that’s heartbreaking. Our role is to try and limit that as much as we can. We’re planning for an economic recovery .. we are encouraging people to support all of the businesses that are still open locally,” Baker said.

“We’re extending due dates for water bills, for tax bills that kind of thing. We’re trying to allow people to defer if they are on a monthly payment plan.”

The Mayor also has a message for residents to support businesses.

“If you’re shopping on Amazon, I’m not sure how much Amazon returns to the City of Brockville. So we’re really asking people to support our businesses in every opportunity they get. They are the ones here for us right now.”

The City of Brockville has also identified $10.3 million of revenue that will be at risk because of the shutdowns associated with the pandemic.

On Friday, the COVID Assessment Centre at the Memorial Centre opened to allow walk-ins. No appointment or referral is needed to get tested for COVID-19.

Baker praised the staff and volunteers for helping out in this difficult time.

“The ability to keep people out of our emergency rooms to help protect our hospital was the entire reason this Assessment Centre was put in place and it’s doing its job,” he said.

“It’s been a really nice collaboration of many local family health teams, and public health and then the City of Brockville and now their regional county government, the Leeds and Grenville Counties, all coming together to safely provide this Assessment Centre and protect Brockville General Hospital from COVID.”

A dedicated phone line was also added this week for people who have any COVID-19 related questions.

“This was in response to our police chief identifying that a number of calls were coming through their dispatch that were more information related,” Baker said.

“We set up resource line. We have that manned weekdays from 8 to 4. It’s been very helpful in answering questions in a timely manner, getting information out to the public and also allowing our police department to focus on policing.”

The phone number is 613-341-2282.

The Mayor’s message to citizens and businesses at this time is that City Council is working every day to help the community get through this.

And if you must leave your house, Baker wants you to ask yourself this question before heading out the door.

“Is it worth putting somebody at risk? If it isn’t, stay home, stay in and stay safe.”