Norfolk, Haldimand declare states-of-emergency

Move to streamline decision-making

Norfolk and Haldimand counties declared states-of-emergency Tuesday in response to the spread of COVID-19.

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Norfolk and Haldimand counties have jointly declared municipal states-of-emergency.

Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp and Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt announced the move Tuesday in a news release.

“The declaration of an emergency provides for considerable authority as outlined in the provisions of the Municipal Act,” Chopp, who also serves as the chair of the board of health for both counties, said in an email reply to questions Tuesday afternoon.

“Mayor Hewitt and I certainly hope that there will not be a need to use these powers. But in the event we need to move quickly, which could happen in a situation such as this, we will be able to do so without council resolution.

“Examples may include approving the sole-sourcing of a critical supply, making application to the Province of Ontario to obtain funding, and other measures as we deem necessary to protect the health and safety of our residents.”

The declaration also allows both counties to act swiftly on violations of public health orders involving social distancing and activities prohibited to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

At the moment, this includes a ban on public and private gatherings of 10 individuals or more and a prohibition on the use of playground equipment.

Chopp said it is urgent that the public take direction on these matters seriously, noting that the rate of viral infection in Ontario – as elsewhere in the world – is increasing exponentially.

“The matter is increasing in magnitude province-wide,” Chopp said in her email to The Reformer.

“Mayor Hewitt and I want the ability to respond quickly and effectively to protect the health and well-being of residents in both counties.”

Chopp said this is a critical moment for slowing the progress of the COVID-19 virus. The goal is to flatten the curve on new cases so available health-care resources can cope with the ongoing rate of infection.

In places such as Italy, the rate of infection has exploded. The health-care system has been overwhelmed and hundreds of vulnerable individuals are dying each day. The latter to this point include seniors, the very young, and people with compromised immune systems.

It is paramount, Chopp said, that local residents returning from abroad heed the advice of health authorities and self-isolate for 14 days. That means going straight home and not stopping anywhere for visits or provisions.

Everyone else is to continue social distancing, which means individuals keeping a minimum of two metres apart at all times. Those returning from abroad, Chopp says, “are not to go to the post office, are not to go to the grocery store, not to leave their home for any reason at all.

“We will begin levying fines and enforcing the orders,” Chopp says. “The time for warnings is past. They are putting their community at risk regardless of how well they may feel at that moment.”

Chopp reminded the public that popular strolling locations such as the piers at Port Maitland, near Dunnville, and in Port Dover are closed till further notice. Playground equipment in both counties is also off-limits.

“Our economy is being destroyed, people are suffering,” Chopp said. “Stop treating this as a holiday and visiting friends and family and going for long walks. Stay home and only leave your home for essentials. That’s it. It is everyone’s civic duty and no one person is above anyone else during this time.”

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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