Regional emergency state order highlights pandemic preparation

Public awareness about the need to pay attention and follow pandemic prevention rules is one of the main reasons behind the state of emergency declaration for the Eastern Ontario region.

“Some folks are still not getting it,” said Stéphane Parisien, chief administrator for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR), during a telephone interview today (March 27).

On March 26 Mayor Bernadette Clement and Wardens Pierre Leroux of the UCPR and Frank Prevost of the United Counties of Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry (SDG) declared a region-wide state of emergency concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.

The declaration had the support of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), which has confirmed four cases of COVID-19 in the region and anticipates more cases may occur either through community transmission between individuals or as residents of Cornwall and the Five Counties areas return home from vacations abroad. The EOHU has concerns that new cases for the region may result from Canadians returning home from winter sojourns in Florida, a popular semiretirement location for “snowbirds,” or who made stops in New York City while driving towards the border. Both Florida and New York City are “hot spots” for COVID-19 in the U.S.

“This (emergency declaration) is to get folks to recognize that we are in a pandemic,” said Parisien, adding that there are still reports of people congregating in groups while out grocery shopping or doing other activities. “They need to practice social distancing.”

Pandemic prevention

Both Canada and all the provincial and territorial governments have declared states of emergency as part of their strategies for dealing with the pandemic. The Ontario government has amended its health protection regulations to include financial penalties for individuals and businesses which create public health risks during the pandemic.

The federal government has also invoked the Quarantine Act, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine period now for any Canadian returning home from abroad, regardless whether or not they show symptoms of COVID-19. The Quarantine Act provides severe penalties, including both fines and jail terms, for individuals who break quarantine rules aimed at fighting the pandemic.

COVID-19 prevention strategies for the public include staying at home as much as possible and avoiding any unnecessary travel. When going out to buy groceries, medications, or dealing with necessary errands, people are urged to maintain at least a two-metre distance between themselves and others. Proper hygiene, including thorough washing of the hands with soap and water, is also emphasized.

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