By Don Norman
A hot topic facing local municipalities with a high percentage of seasonal residents is how to deal with the issue of these residents returning to the municipality to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, a couple hundred kilometers up the Winnipeg River, the Mayor of Kenora Daniel Reynard, has joined the chorus of Canadian officials warning seasonal residents of cottage country to stay home this summer.
“This is a difficult request to make to our valued summer residents and visitors,” said Reynard in a media release issued on Tuesday. “They are vital to our business community and as spring starts to appear, become a valued part of our community. 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.”
The RM of Alexander has yet to make a firm commitment on issuing an official statement like Kenora did, but the issue is high on the priority list. “The RM has reached out to Manitoba Municipal Relations for direction on the matter and is awaiting a response,” said RM of Alexander CAO, Don Dowle. “At this time the RM recommends following ALL the good advice from both federal and provincial health officials,” he continued. “We understand that Canada’s Chief public health officer has suggested that people should avoid going to seasonal homes to self-isolate.”
Dowle was referring to comments by Dr. Theresa Tam at a news conference on Sunday saying that “urban dwellers should avoid heading to rural properties, as these places have less capacity to manage COVID-19.”
The RM of Lac du Bonnet, another municipality in the region with a large number of seasonal residents is also being cautious with their approach. “The Rural Municipality of Lac Du Bonnet council has been following the recommendations and instructions from the Federal and Provincial Public Health Authorities,” RM of Lac du Bonnet Reeve, Loren Schinkel said. “We urge everyone to follow these recommendations and maintain ‘Social Distancing’ and if necessary the ‘14 Day Self Quarantine Protocol’,” he said. “Together we will beat this pandemic and all get back to enjoying our ‘Four Seasons Playground’,” said Schinkel referring to his municipality’s slogan.
The latest Manitoba government release on COVID-19 included the following statement, “Public health is also advising that people remain within or close to their home communities. This includes limiting travel, even within Manitoba, to essential trips only. Services at smaller health centres could be strained if seasonal visitors become ill.”