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Local health, political officials provide COVID-19 related updates

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: With Ontario currently in another state of emergency, a stay at home order now in place, and COVID-19 cases continuing to be reported in Kawartha Lakes, political and health officials in Kawartha Lakes recently provided an update on their situations.

“All staff who can work from home have been told to do so. We will still continue to offer services at the City, via phone and online mainly. Our drop boxes will be open at city hall, Lindsay service centre, Coboconk service centre, [and] Omemee service centre if you need to deliver anything to staff. Libraries will continue to offer curbside pickup, as they have [been since December 26th]. It’s important people know they should be pre-booking anything through the library, not just showing up for curbside pickup,” Mayor Andy Letham said, during a telephone press conference, on Wednesday, January 13th.

The city is keeping their landfills open at this time, while municipal buildings remain closed to the public. Despite the province recently declaring a state of emergency, Kawartha Lakes council doesn’t have plans to do the same just yet.

“We will see how things play out, but if we do that, we will do that from a council perspective, not just me [making the decision]. But we’re still meeting with our emergency operations centre bi-weekly,” Mayor Letham explained.

With cases quickly rising in the municipality, Mayor Letham encouraged people to stay at home as much as possible and to follow COVID-19 health protocols.

“Two or three weeks ago, we had three active cases and nobody in the hospital, so you can see how fast this is changing. [To] people [who] didn’t think we should be in a lock-down, or we should be able to do our own thing as a community, I think we’re seeing the spread. The community spread, is obviously spreading to our community, and we need to make sure we are on top of it. So we will be supporting that lock-down effort,” Mayor Letham stated.

Mayor Letham addressed the new powers granted to bylaw officers to enforce the stay at home order and gathering limit rules. “They’ll certainly enforce what needs to be enforced in coordination with local police. But I know the recent order has given enhanced enforcement powers to some of those organizations. They’re ready to do what needs to be done, based on the complaints we get,” he told The Standard.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit (HKPR) recently provided media members with an update on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for the local health district area.

“We hope to be starting Phase 1 in HKPR in early February. Now, that is subject to change based on the availability of vaccine[s],” HKPR Acting local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ian Gemmill said, during a recent virtual press conference.

Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout sees healthcare workers, people who work or live in long term care facilities and those who work in chronic home care immunized first. Phase 2 will be for essential workers, older adults and then later anyone else who wishes to be vaccinated.

“We expect [Phase 2] to take place in the spring or early summer, and this is totally determined by the availability of vaccine[s]. We don’t have it, but we are ready to go to get vaccine to arms as soon as it is available,” Dr. Gemmill said.

The acting medical officer also addressed the freezer capacity for the vaccines.

“Currently, in our area, we don’t have the requirements for the Pfizer vaccine so it’s likely [the vaccine] will be transferred to us from other health facilities nearby when the vaccine, that’s earmarked for HKPR, has been released to us,” he stated.

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