As the daily case count of COVID-19 is rising in Ontario – particularly in people under the age of 40 – the province’s top officials are chalking it up to large social gatherings. But according to the North Bay Police Service (NBPS), those gatherings haven’t been an issue in North Bay.
Constable John Schultz, the NBPS Community Safety Coordinator says that police have not had to break up any large gatherings in the area. He says there have been noise complaints, but nothing in violation of the provincial guidelines which allow gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
Premier Doug Ford has commended the area on its handling of the virus, saying that he hopes that northern Ontario will be able to stay open if there is a second wave of the virus.
“I don’t believe the north or any other region should be punished because of Toronto, Ottawa, or Peel – people in the north are listening,” the premier said during his remarks at the Northern Ontario Townhall on Monday.
Ford also says that the increasing number of cases in the province is due in part to young people not following the rules.
“It’s up to us to tell the kids they’re not invincible. We’re still learning about this, this could have long-term effects. I sound like a preacher sometimes but I have to. Especially with kids coming back to college and university. They have to make sure they’re socially distancing,” he said.
Students at Canadore College and Nipissing University kicked off their respective school years last week, with the majority of education taking place online (Nipissing is exclusively online). Despite remote learning, both schools have opened up their residences for students to stay in should they need them, and have previously said they expect some students to return to the area based on their preference. Schultz says that police have not responded to any calls regarding students in North Bay so far.
Schultz adds that the NBPS has taken a unique approach to try to enforce some of the provincial health protocols.
“We have two special constables who are assigned to COVID-duty. They educate people – that’s their whole thing. If our communication centre receives a call and it’s not a blatant or obvious event they will go and talk to people and educate them on what’s required and why it’s required,” he explained.
If there is a large gathering, Schultz says that officers would act accordingly. But the majority of what the COVID-constables do is simply to remind people of the rules.
“When people were sitting on park benches when they weren’t allowed, that’s when we’d send in the special (constables). They’d just educate the people and they’d move along,” Schultz said.
As of the morning of September 17, the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit has recorded 39 cases of COVID-19 in the region since the beginning of the pandemic. The region went two full months without a positive case over the summer.
Ontario has recorded more than 200 daily COVID-19 cases every day since September 10 (293 on September 17). Christine Elliot, Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health has added in most of her most recent daily Twitter updates that more than 60 percent of cases in the province have been in people under the age of 40