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Officials satisfied with quiet Easter long weekend

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Grey-Bruce residents mostly stayed home for Easter, according to local officials who say they’re happy with the quiet long weekend.

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Easter weekend was the first major holiday under emergency orders, closures, and physical distancing measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

And while a few people were warned about following the new rules, most have complied with the province’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act locally.

“There were no charges laid this weekend,” said Owen Sound Police Chief Craig Ambrose. “Everybody was good. The general information was there weren’t a whole lot of gatherings or issues.”

Ambrose said the city’s police service still had a fair number of calls, but they were dealt with through education. Most of the calls were in relation to groups congregating in numbers exceeding the five people allowed under the province’s emergency order.

“Whether it’s planned or not . . . people end up gathering in groups,” Ambrose said. “I didn’t really know what to expect. This is all different. Certainly, there was concern from public health as well that a lot of people would be getting together. Now’s the time to be vigilant.”

Dr. Ian Arra, Grey-Bruce’s medical officer of health, said the health unit purposefully released a list of positive COVID-19 cases throughout the region on Friday to remind people community spread is evident headed into the long weekend.

The Easter long-weekend was quieter than Arra expected, although he did receive a report that a person flippantly claimed to have COVID-19 during an interaction with a bylaw officer.

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“I could look in my database and see if the person was lying or not,” Arra said. “But who is to say they’re not from another public health area.”

“These pranks are quite disturbing,” he said. “It would be very inappropriate to hold first responders and public health resources for an hour or two until they felt comfortable enough.”

Arra said that based on the reports he would estimate about 90 per cent of people are heeding the emergency orders. He wasn’t aware of any fines or charges for the few people he did hear about violating the orders.

“That is encouraging to all of us. If we can slow the transmission, or control it to a better rate, we’ll be in better shape at the end of the emergency,” he said.

Bruce Peninsula National Park announced on their Twitter account Sunday that wardens laid charges for trespassing. The park has been closed to all visitors starting on March 23 and until further notice. All public buildings, parking lots, trails, day-use areas, and campgrounds have been temporarily closed to the public. Park officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Rob Armstrong, CAO for the Municipality of Meaford, said the municipality’s control group reported a very quiet long weekend.

“I think people in Meaford are starting to understand the rules that have been put in place. I think a lot of people are self-policing. Neighbours are policing neighbours and reminding people politely about what they should be doing,” Armstrong said. “Generally we’re seeing compliance.”

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Armstrong said lingering issues, such as the use of park structures, have been mostly resolved. He credited regular patrolling by the police.

“Their presence a lot of the time will make people aware of a need to comply, for sure,” he said.

Emergency orders currently in place in Ontario include the closures on non-essential businesses and prohibiting public events and social gatherings of more than five people.

Failure to comply could result in fines from $750 to up to $100,000 for individuals.

A private security company has been tasked with enforcing town bylaws and emergency orders in the Town of South Bruce Peninsula. Its employees issued a couple of $750 tickets earlier in April to people who were on the closed Sauble Beach.

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