Snowmobilers are the latest victims of the COVID lockdown as local Health Unit Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jim Chirico has ordered all Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs’ (OFSC) trails, and trails utilizing Crown Land in the district to close effective Thursday January 21, at 12:01 a.m.
Trails will be shut down for the duration of the Stay-at-Home Order and will be reassessed at that time. This closure is done under the Medical Officer of Health’s ability to increase restrictions within their own district.
A news release from the Health Unit says Chirico deems it "reasonable and necessary" to close the trails which affects the entire district served by the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit I"n order to decrease or eliminate the risk to community health presented by COVID -19."
“We have been told to stay home and we need to do this," says Chirico in the release. "I have received many complaints about people travelling from other districts to use the local snowmobile trails, thus putting our district at risk of COVID-19. The OFSC recommends that snowmobilers avoid trailering and travelling to destinations that are outside their health unit region to snowmobile, but people have not taken the direction seriously
"We are also seeing groups of snowmobilers congregating on trails, in parking lots and other locations not maintaining a two metre distance and exceeding the gathering limits.”
On January 12, 2021, the province of Ontario announced the change in outdoor gathering limits from 10 to five. Individuals must maintain a two metre physical distance from people they do not live with. Individuals who live alone are allowed to be in close contact with one unique home, but must physically distance with anyone who does not live in that home. Face coverings are also recommended to be worn outdoors.
“I do not recommend anyone gather with people you do not live with or if you live alone people who are not a part of your unique close contact home,” states Dr. Chirico. “We are seeing an increase of COVID-19 cases locally and the provincial projections do not look good. Our local hospitals have very little surge capacity and limited resources which must be protected for the health and safety of our community. We must take extra precautions to keep our district safe. However, the key is we must all work together.”
The release states outdoor physical activity, such as walking, running, playing outside and biking are important for physical and mental health and still recommended by the Health Unit. However, the Health Unit has ordered all of the city's rinks and sliding hills closed. The ski hill also remains closed.
All City of North Bay outdoor municipal rinks and tobogganing hills are closed until further notice under the direction of the North Bay Parry Sound District Medical Officer of Health, effective this past Thursday.
The decision came even after the province included ice skating and tobogganing on its list of outdoor activities permitted during the lockdown.
Parking lots at outdoor rinks are closed and residents are advised to adhere to the Ontario government’s 28-day stay-at-home order and declaration of a second provincial emergency to address the COVID-19 crisis.
For more information please visit myhealthunit.ca/COVID-19.