Mayors join call to stop cottage visitors

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The mayors of four local municipalities are joining the call for the province to stop people from Ontario’s urban centres travelling to their cottages over the May long weekend.

Mayors Sue D’Eon of Deep River, Jed Reinwald of Laurentian Hills, Debbi Grills of the townships of Head, Clara, Maria, and Bob Sweet of Petawawa signed a joint letter to Premier Doug Ford last week urging Premier Doug Ford to issue “provincial restrictions” on “non-essential regional travel” until at least the end of May.

In their letter, the mayors thank Ford and the provincial government “for your wise guidance and capable and compassionate handling of the coronavirus pandemic.”

“In the Upper Ottawa Valley, we have been very fortunate – our dispersed population and strong civic compliance has allowed us to weather this pandemic so far relatively unscathed.

“Through careful management, our local hospital and our long-term care homes have so far managed to avoid outbreaks.

“That said, we the undersigned mayors, are very concerned about the virus silently hitch-hiking a ride into our communities and undoing the gains that our sacrifices have made,” they continue.

“Tens of thousands of Southern and Eastern Ontario residents are about to travel to their seasonal properties in Central and Northern Ontario for the May 24th weekend.

“Shopping for supplies at local grocery and hardware stores, pharmacies, gas stations or liquor stores will significantly increase the risk of coronavirus exposure to our local front-line essential staff who work in facilities caring for our most vulnerable.

“With great respect, we implore you to issue provincial restrictions on non-essential regional travel until the end of May, or at minimum, a very strongly worded provincial directive to citizens to stay home and not travel to other regions of the province for a few more weeks.

“Thank you for your leadership and for considering our request.”

It doesn’t appear, however, that the premier will take them up on the request.

On Thursday morning, Ford issued a statement noting that he had a “very productive discussion” with the mayors of a number of “cottage country” municipalities about the impact COVID-19 is having on their communities.

“I thanked them for their incredible work in helping to keep the residents of our province safe.”

However, he stopped short of saying he would ban cottage travel, asking cottage owners to “hold-off” visiting their seasonal properties “until it is safe to do so.”

“While Ontario is vast and regions are facing the challenges of COVID-19 differently, it is more important than ever that we stick together and fight COVID-19 as one team,” Ford said.

“With the Victoria Day long weekend and cottage season just around the corner, we need to stay vigilant.

“We are still battling a terrible virus, so we are asking seasonal residents travelling to their cottages to practice the same public health measures as usual, including no public gatherings, avoiding non-essential travel as much as possible, and continue to practice social distancing.”

Ford said cottage country residents are “known for their hospitality and normally they would be welcoming tourists with open arms right now.”

“This year, however, they are asking visitors to help them fight the spread of COVID-19 and hold-off travelling to these regions until it is safe to do so.

“I know Ontarians are eager to enjoy the great outdoors, but there will be plenty of long weekends to come.

“Right now, we need to focus on doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians. We’re all in this together and together we will beat COVID-19.”

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