City of Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien has declared a state of emergency for the city due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She made the announcement at a media teleconference on Monday (March 23).
“After careful consideration of the increasing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the corresponding need for people to take necessary precautions, I am declaring a state of emergency for the City of Peterborough,” Mayor Therrien said.
“This decision follows declarations made by the Province of Ontario for the entire province, as well as numerous other municipalities that have declared local states of emergency.”
“This emergency declaration reinforces the urgency of the situation we are in, and by declaring an emergency we are clearly stating as a community that our efforts are focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and the health and safety of everyone.”
“For the safety of yourself and others, you need to stay home except for essential outings. Follow social distancing guidelines to slow the spread of illness, and if you are asked to self-isolate, you must do so.”
“If you have returned from travel outside of Canada, you are — and everyone you live with is — required to self-isolate for 14 days.”
“Refusing to do so is irresponsible and places our community at increased risk. Do your part to flatten the curve.”
Mayor Therrien explained that municipalities can declare states of emergency under Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, and doing so may provide access to provincial relief funding should it become available.
She said that police, fire, and paramedic services would continue to operate under the state of emergency, and that the city would continue to provide its core services, although with some adjusted service levels.
She also encouraged people to look to public health officials, such as Peterborough Public Health, for up-to-date and reliable information about COVID-19.
Mayor Therrien repeated the advice from public health authorities on how to slow the spread of the illness.
“Avoid non-essential gatherings. Stay at home as much as possible. Practise appropriate physical and social distancing; be at least two metres apart. Wash your hands frequently using soap, for at least 15 to 20 seconds each time. Use hand sanitizer. Cough or sneeze into your arm.”
“If you have COVID-19 symptoms, self-monitor and self-isolate. You can use the self-assessment tool at covid-19.ontario.ca/self-assessment/. If you are having trouble breathing, or are experiencing other severe symptoms, call 911 immediately.”
“If you have travelled outside Canada recently, you must self-isolate for 14 days.”
Mayor Therrien’s announcement comes on the heels of Ontario Premier Doug Ford announcing the shutdown of all non-essential services across the province in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces is effective as of Tuesday, March 24th at 11:59 p.m. The closure will be in effect for 14 days with the possibility of extending this order as the situation evolves.
“Premier Ford’s announcement earlier this afternoon regarding the closure of non-essential businesses hit home the point. This is a public health emergency, and we all need to do our part as individuals to slow the spread. We need to be responsible, proactive, and smart. Stop going out.”
“If you have returned from outside of Canada, you need to self-isolate for 14 days. It doesn’t matter if you feel fine, if you are back from Florida, from Mexico, from anywhere, you need to self-isolate for 14 days. This means no stops for gas, no stops at the pharmacy, no stops at the grocery store. If someone picks you up from the airport, they must also self-isolate for 14 days after being in a vehicle with you.”
“If you do not self-isolate, you are putting other peoples’ lives at risk. If you don’t self-isolate, you are being irresponsible, selfish, reckless, and a danger to your family, your friends, your neighbours, and your community.”
“If you know people who are not self-isolating, tell them. Shame them into doing it. It will save laves. Offer to get groceries for folks who are coming back from abroad; make it simple and practical for them to self-isolate. This is how we come together as a community, as we always do in times of adversity.”
Mayor Therrien said that, despite the number of questions and amount of rapidly changing information about COVID-19, the one fact that remains consistent is that staying away from others and self-isolation is the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“No one, whether you have recently travelled or not, should be having friends and family over. Inviting a friend in for coffee is not self-isolating. Hosting a family birthday party is not self-isolating. This can be a life-and-death situation and we must treat it as such.”
“This is a difficult time for our community, like all communities across the nation. Our small businesses are suffering, our part-time and precariously employed workers are facing uncertainty. Our homeless and other vulnerable popualtions have their life circumstances made even more challenging.”
Mayor Therrien also said she is in regular contact with Peterborough’s provincial MPP and the federal MP, and that senior levels of government understand the impact of this crisis in both the City and County of Peterborough, and have asked for information and ideas on how forthcoming provincial and federal funding and programs can best be used.
She also said city staff would likely be recommending a deferral of the March tax penalty, and city council will be considering a variety of ways to ease the burden on residents and taxpayers. She encouraged members of the public to contact city council with any suggestions they may have.
Mayor Therrien thanked those who have been practising social distancing and those who have been helping their neighbours get groceries, medications, and other essentials. She also thanked local businesses who are pulling together to help one another, Black’s Distillery and Persian Empire who have been producing hand sanitizer, first responders, healthcare workers, and to the media for their assistance in getting key messages out. She committed to updating the public daily as the situation continues to unfold.
“Be safe, be well, and stay the heck home,” she concluded.
Following Mayor Therrien’s remarks, Peterborough County Warden J. Murray Jones also officially declared a state of emergency for the County of Peterborough, with the county working hand in hand with the city.
“Drastic situations call for drastic measures, and we are pushing the button just as hard as we can to get people to finally understand how serious this issue is,” Warden Jones said via teleconference.
“I’m hearing more anecdotal information every day about people who just don’t get it. People in cottage country, for example, are coming up from Toronto, returning from Florida, and they’re out and about, walking together with people, and this has got to stop. People have to understand that we have to get ugly over this issue, and we are going to do just that.”
“We have to stand united, we have to be strong, and we will get through this. Whether you’re in the county or the city, please understand how serious this is.”
In response to telephone questions from the media, Mayor Therrien clarified that the declaration of a state of emergency is a tool to communicate the severity of the situation to residents.
“We’ve been hearing too many stories about folks who are not taking it seriously, who continue to gather in groups, who go out after getting back from abroad. We really need to convey this is an emergency and people need to treat it as such.”
She also explained that, while declaring a state of emergency provides an opportunity for access to financial or other programs from senior levels of government, communicating the severity of the situation is the primary reason.
“A lot of it is symbolic, for us to tell everyone how serious this is,” Warden Jones added.