While there were still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Grey-Bruce reported Friday, measures continued to be implemented across the two counties in an effort to prevent a widespread outbreak.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit confirmed Friday afternoon that no cases of the coronavirus had been detected in the two counties. As of Friday at noon, there were 157 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada.
And on the eve of the March break, according to one travel agency in the area, virtually everyone was putting their plans to visit international destinations on hold.
On Thursday the province announced that publicly funded schools would be closed for two weeks following March break, the Ontario Hockey League said it was postponing its season and minor sports organizations, including for hockey and soccer, said that seasons and practices had been cancelled or postponed.
Bruce Power announced it was closing its visitor centre and cancelling its March break programming, while also implementing measures to protect the safety of its plants, employees and community.
Plans were announced to proactively screen all visitors to area long-term care homes.
On Friday, Georgian College announced that all classes at its campuses would be suspended next week as it worked toward remote delivery of its programs, an approach similar to that of many colleges and universities across the country.
Bruce County said it was cancelling programs at its museum and cultural centre, library branches, and EarlyON Child and Family Centre from March 14 to April 5. County offices were remaining open until further notice.
“We recognize the significant impact this decision will have on families and the broader community but are committed to ensuring the health and well-being of all citizens. This is a precautionary measure,” Bruce County Warden Mitch Twolan said in a release.
Grey County announced Friday its EarlyON Child and Family Centres would be closed from March 14 to April 5.
Municipalities across the counties, including Owen Sound, South Bruce Peninsula, Brockton, Hanover, Saugeen Shores and Huron-Kinloss, were announcing the closure of some facilities and cancellation of programs. Details were being provided on their websites and social media feeds.
MP Alex Ruff put out a statement that he would be cutting down on public events and doing as much business over the phone as possible.
“I want to ensure I will not be a potential carrier of the virus or put my constituents at risk via my travels across the riding,” Ruff said.
MPs voted Friday to suspend Parliament for five weeks.
The Owen Sound Farmers’ Market was closed for Saturday and Meaford Hall announced all its events between Friday and April 15 would be rescheduled.
Ann Otterbein, owner of Fettes TravelPlus in Owen Sound, said Friday had been “a really, really trying day.”
Otterbein said almost everybody scheduled to travel until the end of March had either cancelled or delayed their plans.
“There is the odd one that is still at this point planning to travel, but even that could change,” said Otterbein. “They could change their mind by tomorrow.”
Otterbein said people have been quite tolerant and patient with the whole situation, which she was happy to see.
“It has been very challenging, that is for sure, but we are optimistic,” said Otterbein. “Certainly all of the suppliers have been offering opportunities to cancel and delay their plans until later and chances for credits for future travel.
“We are optimistic people are going to travel again in the future, but not the immediate future.”
On Friday, the Canadian and Ontario governments were both asking people to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit issued a news release late Friday afternoon reminding residents that there were still no cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Grey-Bruce.
The message put out by local health officials this week has been for people to remain calm, practice proper hygiene like hand washing, coughing and sneezing into a sleeve, avoid touching ones eyes, nose and mouth, avoid people who are sick and to stay out of large groups.
People were also being asked to disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces and to stay home if they are sick.
Ontario announced the “immediate suspension” of all gatherings over 250 people.
“As part of the escalating response to safeguard the health of our communities, the Grey Bruce Health Unit has enhanced infectious disease response capabilities to prevent or decrease further transmission of the virus in Grey Bruce,” it said in the release from public health. “We have been working closely with healthcare, municipal and private sector partners to support their response. As well, we continue to work closely with provincial and national partners to monitor and detect any cases of COVID-19 in the community.”
Grey Bruce Health Services President and CEO Gary Sims urged people on Thursday to remain calm.
“We have a really good foothold, we believe we have prepared ourselves well and now we are looking to the community to be calm, work with us and we can get through this,” said Sims.
Sims said the strategy was being driven by public health and was focused on containment, by identifying people who travelled to areas where there have been outbreaks and they were displaying symptoms, getting them to self isolate and monitoring them. People are not to go to the emergency room regarding coronavirus.
GBHS staff were also being encouraged to take responsibility as well, to self isolate if sick, contact their doctor and not go to work, Sims said.
COVID-19 assessment centres were being planned for Kincardine and Hanover, with the Ontario Ministry of Health determining if and when they will be activated.
Those who have travelled abroad to countries considered high risk and exhibiting symptoms of the virus, including fever, cough and difficulty breathing were asked to contact their doctor, Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or the Grey Bruce Health Unit at 519-376-9420, ext. 3000.
The list of countries that were considered affected areas by Canada continued to grow, and included China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Spain.
Federal Canadian ministers announced new restrictions on international travel with overseas flights coming into Canada soon only allowed to land at a limited number of airports. Cruise ships over 500 passengers will also no longer be allowed to dock in Canada before July.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam recommended Canadians “postpone or cancel all non-essential travel outside Canada.”