North Bay Mayor Al McDonald remains supportive of the decisions made throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit and Dr. Jim Chirico, the local Medical Officer of Health.
Friday, Dr. Chirico addressed the extension of shutdown measures and the stay-at-home order that will now remain in place until at least Monday, March 8, locally. Public health and workplace safety measures will also be extended by two weeks.
"I would rather not see our region extended — like most individuals — but I do understand the concern of the variants and I trust the advice of our medical professionals as I have since day one," McDonald told BayToday following the announcement. "I will not go against their advice and I will support their recommendations. We all want to get back to normal. No one wants to be locked down, including me."
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Chirico referenced low vaccination totals in the district due to supply shortages and McDonald echoed their importance to the overall public health picture.
"To be honest, I am more disappointed in the lack of vaccines as this is what would allow us to get back to normal far sooner and keep everyone safe and allow our local businesses to fully open."
In his address, Chirico acknowledged the difficulties faced by the business community due to the pandemic and restrictions on in-person shopping and service and McDonald, who has been posting updates daily to his Facebook account throughout the pandemic, agrees fatigue is setting in with some of his followers.
"It has been a long 335 days since the start of the pandemic. This has been a difficult time for all of us. It is a challenge to find a balance of protecting the most vulnerable, protecting seniors at risk, grandparents wanting to see their grandkids and local businesses closed or very limited to what they can do," says McDonald.
The Mayor says he stays in regular contact with Dr. Chirico, and while he supports the decisions, they are ultimately left to the health professionals.
Says McDonald, "He did not consult with me on the extension of the orders, nor has he in the past. We did speak about the concerns of the potential spread of the variants mostly, the school closures and apartment building outbreak. I did tell him on the call that I will support whatever decision(s) he needs to make in the best interests in keeping our citizens and community safe."
Until Friday, many of Dr. Chirico's restrictions as far as winter outdoor amenities had been received poorly from community members.
"Many decisions were unpopular but they worked and the results showed," observes McDonald. "The concern is the variant. The fast-spreading of the variants in our community could potentially and quickly overwhelm the resources of our health unit to do contact tracing and overwhelm our hospital."
Until the variant was detected, North Bay had consistently been among the lowest in cases per capita and the Mayor has remained firm with his support.
"I will not waver in my commitment to support the advice of our medical professionals," he says. "I know it is unpopular but the safety of our citizens has been the number one priority since the pandemic started."