The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero made the declaration Monday, just hours after the province ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Declaring an emergency is the next important step the town is taking toward slowing the potential spread of COVID-19 for the protection of our residents, businesses, and staff,” Disero said in a town news release.
“With hundreds of people returning to Niagara-on-the-Lake from winter travel, what we do over the next few days is critical. People must understand that self-isolation is absolutely essential.”
The town said an emergency declaration aligns the municipality with the province, granting the mayor the authority to take actions she considers necessary to implement the town’s emergency response plan.
“This declaration will better position the town as we respond to this rapidly evolving situation. We must cease this opportunity in an effort to stop the potential for community spread.”
Fire chief and community emergency management co-ordinator Nick Ruller said the declaration is another example of “the timely and decisive action that is required to flatten the curve and lessen the impact of COVID-19 in (the) community.”
“Each one of us is responsible for the health and well-being of one another during this pandemic,” Ruller said. “When people are self-isolating, this crisis is contained.”
He said he applauds Disero and members of council for their commitment and leadership.
Disero said it is imperative that people work together to take care of one another during this unprecedented time.
“I would like to assure you, our valued residents that we are here for you. We will do everything in our power to help our community get through this health emergency. Please remain calm and do your part by practising social distancing and staying home as much as possible. If you have just returned to Niagara-on-the-Lake, go straight home and do not leave your house for 14 days. I know the people of Niagara-on-the-Lake are incredibly kind and helpful, and I have no doubt that we will work together to get through this trying time. Call a friend or a member of council to help pick up whatever essential supplies you need.”
The town release points out that World Health Organization evidence to date suggests older people and those with underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk of severe impact from the COVID-19 virus.
“With more than 50 per cent of our population over the age of 50, this human health emergency presents a significant risk to Niagara-on-the-Lake. This means our unique tourism, agriculture, and business community will also be especially impacted,” said the release.
The town's emergency control group “continues to make timely, thorough and informed decisions in response to the unfolding situation,” said interim CAO Sheldon Randall.
Essential services such as pharmacies, grocery stores, other food providers intend to remain open to the public.
The town is strongly encouraging residents to consider alternative methods, such as drive-thru, delivery and online ordering to obtain items such as food and medication.
“With the speed at which this pandemic is evolving, there is considerable risk to the community if we collectively fail to employ the recommendations outlined by federal, provincial and regional public health agencies,” said the town.
“It is essential that everyone complies with preventative measures laid out by the public health agencies, including the practice of social distancing, and not overloading hospitals and health facilities.”
Anyone experiencing symptoms is asked to call Niagara Region's coronavirus hotline first at 1-888-505-6074. Nurses are available to take calls between 9 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Town phone lines are being answered between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, and online service requests remain available at www.notl.com.