COVID-19 Update: Cottages and Camps – For Now Hold Off says Minister Rickford

Float Plane - Lake of the Woods in Kenora
Float Plane - Lake of the Woods in Kenora

THUNDER BAY – “Our government is asking urban residents to refrain from heading to their cottages. Those on the front lines are working tirelessly and rural medical facilities have limited space and supply,” states Minister Greg Rickford. I am hopeful that our Manitoba neighbours will respect this position. Let’s not put any of our fellow citizens at risk and hospitals under more pressure than necessary.”

Minister Greg Rickford is setting down the Ontario Government's plans with Hydro One executive and CEO compensation
Minister Greg Rickford

The impact of potentially thousands of Winnipeg cottagers coming into the Kenora region will out added stress on the Healthcare system and the resources in the region. The Lake of the Woods District Hospital would likely be potentially overwhelmed.

“This is a serious issue for Northwestern communities. We don’t have hospital capacity and the public health risk is too high for people to make leisure visits or open their camps early,” said Rickford. “I am working closely with my provincial colleagues to review all options necessary to protect Kenora-Rainy River’s health care and supply networks.”

Premier Doug Ford has urged all Ontarians to not go to their cottages during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we hope the Manitoba Government will make the same request of its citizens.

“This is a difficult request to make to our valued summer residents and visitors. They are vital to our business community and as spring starts to appear, become a valued part of our community,” said Mayor Dan Reynard, Town of Kenora. “Asking visitors and summer residents not to come to Kenora is everything opposite that Kenora has been working for, but we really need everyone to just stay home. It is key to making the difference in the spread of this virus by what we have seen in other countries. We simply need everyone to follow the direction of the health experts.”

“I support MPP Greg Rickford’s call on cottagers to stay home during the pandemic,” said Francis Kavanaugh, Grand Chief of Grand Council Treaty #3. “Grand Council Treaty #3 is taking all precautions necessary to protect our communities from the COVID-19 and we are asking citizens of neighbouring jurisdictions to respect our efforts.”

Federal Kenora MP Eric Melillo is calling for cottagers to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Melillo is concerned that vacationers from Manitoba and other parts of Ontario are risking public health by visiting their cottages in the Kenora riding.

“By choosing this time to go to their cottages, out-of-riding visitors risk spreading the virus into communities that have not previously been exposed,” Melillo explains. “People should be practicing social distancing within their own communities right now – and that means staying in their own homes as much as possible and avoiding all non-essential travel.”

“Travel between communities poses a risk, and provides a perfect opportunity for coronavirus to skip from one community to another.  If we want to slow the spread, we need to stop non-essential travel between communities,” said Dr. Ian Gemmill, Acting Medical Officer of Health, and Marilyn Herbacz, CEO for the Northwestern Health Unit. “If you are not a permanent resident of our area, even if you have a cottage nearby, please consider that during these strained times, you may not have access to the health care that you need and would be better to remain in the area where you have a family doctor and a health sciences centre.”

Dr. Sean Moore, Chief of Emergency Services at Lake of the Woods District Hospital, has been sounding the alarm about the lack of resources in their ER and ICU.

“We are a tiny operation compared to the hospitals in Manitoba, and we are already well beyond capacity,” said Dr. Sean Moore, Chief of Emergency Services and Lake of the Woods Hospital. “Our infrastructure and staffing is past capacity on a normal day for just our year-round residents. Add several thousand cottagers opening up their camps, and we have the recipe for disaster on our hands.”

MPP Rickford’s office continues to receive calls from concerned constituents and has brought this issue to the attention of his Cabinet colleagues.

“There will soon come a time where we can all appreciate the beauty of Ontario’s cottage country but for now, we ask that you stay home and help us fight COVID-19,” adds Minister Rickford.
Here in Thunder Bay where many people in the city have summer camps, NetNewLedger reached out to the Thunder Bay District Health Unit to see if there are similar recommendations, we await an answer.
The provincial government in Manitoba has initiated check-stops at the provincial boundary. They are exempting Manitobans who are going to their cottages and camps in Ontario from the self-isolation requirements.