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Regional reopening: Municipalities want more say on reopening plans during pandemic
OTTAWA -- After weeks of closures, the idea of a “regional reopening” during the COVID-19 pandemic is gaining support from officials across eastern Ontario.
“We see other provinces across the country taking a regional approach, and I think it’s just recognizing that different parts of the province are having different experiences with COVID right now,” says Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson.
A regional approach to reopening would give a municipality, or a regional health unit, more say in what COVID closure restrictions exist within its own boundaries.
“I think being able to have that flexibility, i think it makes sense,” explains Mayor Paterson.
Kingston has been at the forefront of pushing the province to allow for more autonomy in reopening.
With only one case currently active and no outbreaks in long-term care homes, the city feels that it is the right time to let individual areas make the call.
“We’re going to be living with this virus over the next year-and-a-half, and there are going to be other waves of this virus, it’s going to be in different regions in different ways at different times,” says Paterson. “It seems to make sense to be able... to either lift certain restrictions or to re-impose them.”
The Ontario Government shot down the idea of regional reopening plans at the beginning of May.
“We have to run the province as one group. One unit,” said Premier Doug Ford on May 7.
However, for some residents they feel it is time to reopen the economy.
“I think the Mayor can have more say,” says Lillian Estephanos. “If we apply social distancing, limited number of people we can start opening up some things.”
Fellow Kingston resident Lindsay Landry agrees.
“If we are choosing to go out and choosing to see people and do things and we’re not at risk, in my opinion, again just my opinion, it should be ok,” she says.
Even in places like Ottawa, where there are more cases, municipal leaders support the idea of more flexibility for municipalities to relax the restrictions.
“As we monitor the rates of infection. If that science and evidence tells us the situation is different in different places, then probably it does make sense for us to take different approaches in different places,” said Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches during an interview with CTV Morning Live.
“I think is one size fits all on most policies, that makes sense,” explains Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. “But in the case of recovery there may be more areas of the province that are able to move sooner.”
“I’m speaking with mayors in the Toronto area, who are saying they’re not ready to reopen. In Kingston we are ready to take those steps carefully,” explains Paterson of conversations he’s had around the province.
For now, the Ontario Government and Premier Ford have the final say on what can and cannot reopen. Officials across the region saying they will wait on the province to make the call on the future of a regional reopening.