DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR) has completed giving the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines to long-term care residents.


“Not only have we immunized the 1700 residents of long-term care homes right across the whole area, but we are also in line to get the second dose for those people. Frankly, I feel this is one group we need to provide the second dose to, to start the iron ring around [long-term care],” HKPR acting medical officer of health Dr. Ian Gemmill told reporters, on Wednesday, February 17th.
But, with non-outbreak-related cases being reported recently in the health unit area, Dr. Gemmill suspects some people are still meeting up in groups despite COVID-19 rules.


“I’m inferring from this, perhaps some of the gathering we have been trying to discourage is still happening,” he said.
However, Dr. Gemmill feels the best approach is to keep up consistent messaging.


“If you say something often enough, maybe it will begin to sink in. I think that’s where we are with this,” he explained. “The only thing I worry about is the opening [from lockdown]. I know people want to get their hair cut, and I know people want to go to different shops to get things they don’t necessarily need urgently. I don’t think that will be a problem. I think you can do that safely with masks and distancing. What I am worried about is, when we start to relax things, people all of a sudden think things are better.”


This is why Dr. Gemmill is still asking people to stay home as much as they can.


“Please stay at home unless you are going out for work, for school or getting essential things,” he strongly requested.


The importance of staying home is strengthened with reports of the more contagious COVID-19 variants being confirmed in Ontario. Recently, a few people in Port Hope were confirmed to have one of the variant strains.


“This is becoming a big issue across the province of Ontario,” Dr. Gemmill stated.


With Kawartha Lakes having recently moved from lockdown to the orange-restrict category, Dr. Gemmill has a strong message for residents and visitors of the Ontario government’s framework.


“While more services are available and more shops will be open, which I think is a good thing, it does not mean things are back to normal, or that we should behave like things are back to normal.”