By Jenn Watt
Now that the provincial government is beginning to ease restrictions on business and activities and more seasonal property owners are returning to cottage country, it’s time for us to focus on what’s important: moving forward safely in a way that is respectful to everyone.
In the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, health-care professionals and politicians advised the public of the risks involved if many seasonal property owners left the GTA to isolate in more rural places. The reasoning was sound: large numbers of people, mostly untested for the virus, could contribute to the spread of COVID-19 and if they got sick, could then overwhelm small-town hospitals. There was also concern for food supply at small grocery stores, particularly when hoarding led to shortages of some staples.
This recommendation led to spirited conversations in the media and online with people on either side of the issue debating passionately. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, the debate turned into argument and passionately held opinions turned into some pretty nasty insults.
Advice that was supposed to limit travel and safeguard easily-overwhelmed facilities ended up stoking the fires of us versus them: full-time versus part-time community members.
Now, as we head into summer, we need to find a way past that rhetoric.
The premier has asked – for now – that tourists not travel to cottage country and that seasonal residents avoid non-essential travel, keep gatherings to five people or less, and practice physical distancing.
Municipal leaders have said the same, with Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts welcoming cottagers in a letter released last week, reminding everyone that the summer to come will be like none we’ve had before: one without many of the key events and activities many of us associate with summer in the Highlands.
Between the cancellation of the Haliburton School of Art + Design classes, the Highlands Summer Festival and the various events in and around the county’s villages and hamlets, the next few months will be decidedly low-key.
It is important that as the weeks progress, with businesses beginning to reopen and people taking their first steps out of isolation, that we focus our attention on how to do so safely and with respect for one another. We need to do what’s best for the community while not alienating parts of it. Let’s focus on that as we move forward into this long weekend and beyond.