July 2, 2020
To all Members of Hastings and Prince Edward Communities,
Over the past several months, the efforts of community members to practise infection control, isolate when unwell, and physically distance when in public, have helped slow the spread of COVID-19. These practises are working; at the time of this statement, we have not had a new case of COVID-19 since May 18th. Evidence shows that these measures work and are our best defense against the virus.
As an additional preventative measure, HPEPH strongly recommends that individuals wear face coverings in situations where physical distancing may not be possible. Although several areas currently experiencing outbreaks of the virus have recently made wearing face coverings a requirement while in commercial establishments, we have carefully determined that a legal requirement for face coverings in our community is not necessary at this time. It is important to recognize that implementing and enforcing mandatory face coverings would require redeployment of local public health workers from high priority areas such as inspection and enforcement of long-term care homes, food service settings, and personal service settings, and planning for the reopening of schools. We will continue to monitor the local situation and are prepared to respond appropriately if additional measures are required.
To be clear, HPEPH encourages everyone to do the right thing – to wear a face covering in public settings when physical distancing may not be possible. We want to reiterate that there may come a time when this becomes mandatory and we want to encourage everyone to get ready for that time now.
HPEPH is working proactively to protect our community and enforce current preventative measures, which have been put in place based on the best available evidence. Right now, the local system has the capacity to respond to any positive cases or violations of current restrictions efficiently, protecting those who are most at risk. Maintaining this capacity is a priority and is essential for long term recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in our community.
We recognize that the summer travel season poses unique concerns about transmission of COVID-19 from one area to another. While there are currently no restrictions in place that prohibit travel within the province, HPEPH continues to recommend that everyone stay within their local area if possible, and limit their number of close contacts, regardless of where they reside. However, we do recognize that Hastings and Prince Edward Counties (HPEC) welcome many visitors from outside of our region during the summer months. We also recognize that residents of HPEC may choose to travel to other regions during this time. To help reduce the risk related to travelling between regions, we continue to strongly recommend:
- Wearing a face covering in situations where physical distancing may not be possible
- Diligence with social distancing and hand washing efforts
- Complying with restrictions on social gatherings
- Avoiding close contact with anyone outside of your social circle
- If travelling outside your home region, bring food, medical, and cleaning supplies with you to reduce unnecessary shopping
- Staying home if you feel unwell
- Seeking testing if you are concerned you have been exposed to COVID-19 for any reason
While everyone has done their part well to manage cases locally, we do expect that we will see positive cases in our region over the coming weeks. The pandemic is not over. To reduce the risk for all members of the public, it is critical that everyone continue to practise the measures listed above. We continue to appreciate the ongoing efforts of local residents and visitors to our area to maintaining these practices, and to local municipalities and businesses for adjusting operations to ensure safe spaces and services. We know it isn’t easy, but these efforts have been effective in slowing the spread in our region. They will continue to be effective, but we must remain diligent.
We’re all working hard to keep our community safe and we rely on local residents and visitors to make responsible choices to protect their own health, and the health of those around them. We also want to remind everyone that these times are stressful; we know that everyone is doing their part and we want to continue to operate with kindness and solidarity. We are in this together. We continue to provide support to local partners and businesses, to help ensure they have the information they need to comply with existing requirements. We will continue our efforts, in partnership with local municipalities, to enforce current emergency orders. Information about current emergency orders is available at Ontario.ca/coronavirus. Information about reporting violations to current emergency orders can be found at hpePublicHealth.ca/the-novel-coronavirus-2019ncov .
For additional information and resources about COVID-19, please visit hpePublicHealth.ca/the-novel-coronavirus-2019ncov/.
Dr. Alexa Caturay
Acting Medical Officer of Health
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health