‘COVID time is not cottage time’: Canada's top health official

Mayors across the province of Ontario are expressing concerns with people heading to the cottage to isolate. They want people to follow the rules and that means to self isolate wherever you may be.

Cottage, cabin, lake or camp - however you refer to it, heading outside the city to relax at summer homes is a right of passage for many Canadians.

But the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada says now that is not a good idea.

The Federation Of Ontario Cottagers' Association (FOCA) understands the directive from Canada’s top health officials and they want cottagers to be mindful of their actions.

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“We realize that everyone's anxious to get out of the city or want to self isolate and that's perfectly natural and understandable,” said Terry Rees, The executive director of FOCA.

“It's not a rule and it's not our intention to tell people how, or if, or when they can use their properties that they own, but we do want people to be mindful of the fact that our public officials and Canada's head public health officials are giving us very specific advice about how we should be taking the best steps to keeping our communities in our family safe,” he added.

Rees agrees that rural communities have limited access to certain services.

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“We do realize that at certain times of the year, and this would be one of those times, the communities really are in sort of half speed mode. Many of the facilities aren't even open. There's limited access to some of the roads. Emergency services might be limited,” he said.


Mayors across Ontario somewhat agree, but their main message is that, wherever you may be, you need to isolate.

“Really what the concern is all about is trying to limit the spread of the virus and no matter where you are, the kind of precautions that you should take would apply anywhere,” said Harry Hughes, the mayor of Oro Medonte, a stretch of property between Orillia and Barrie.

“I expect that what's happening is that people are getting maybe a bit of cabin fever and they're liking to go for a drive to their cottage, just to get out, to see things that are different. And then maybe only stay a short period of time and go back home,” said Hughes.

The mayor of the Township of Muskoka Lakes is in line with this thought too.

“I don't care whether you are a seasonal resident and want to come up here, you're a permanent resident, nobody should be out interacting in the public. Everybody at this point must isolate. It's the only way that we are going to stop the spread of this disease,” said Mayor Phil Harding.

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He says there is a ‘fear’ that people from the GTA will bring the virus up with them, but he tries to see both perspectives.

“I have to always look at everything from both sides and there have been people who live here year-round in Muskoka, in the Township of Muskoka Lakes, but they have done some shopping in the GTA. They've gone down to Toronto. They've been to Barrie. Our closest Costco is in Orillia,” he added.

Another concern for rural townships is in the fact that cottagers bring in money.

“I have had restaurants that typically open early May, that have advised me that they won't be opening right now till June," said Harding. "Many marinas are looking at opening, getting some boats in the water as people require them, but probably their full operations won't get going to mid June or even July at this point.”

The mayor of the Municipality of Lambton Shores is worried about local businesses and residents. The county they are in reaches from the Village of Grand Bend, south, down to Lake St. Clair, through Sarnia and the entire County of Lambton.

“For our residents, the businesses, we want them here later, we have to do everything possible to quickly and safely deal with this pandemic,” said Mayor Bill Weber. “We're not saying you can't come, it's your house. We cannot say, stay where you are. We don't want you travelling back and forth.”

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Weber says if people do come up as their way of isolating all he can do is ask them to follow the rules. IF people don’t follow them, they will take the necessary precautions.

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“You don't want to go there, but you want to do things so that we don't have to go there,” he said. “We will have things in place and we truly do not want to close our community down, but we will if we have to to keep everybody safe.”

“This is doubly hurtful because rural Ontario has not got a really thriving economy. We really feel strongly about being a part of that. We are really big proponents of shopping local,” said Rees. “We are big proponents of shopping local but at this time in this crisis, it's a whole different ball game.”

Everyone reiterating the importance of flattening the curve now to slow down the spread of the virus.

“Summer 2020 for everyone in the province of Ontario, across Canada, around the world, will be vastly different,” said Harding.