At shift change Tuesday night, well-wishers honked horns, rang bells and cheered their support for healthcare workers outside Owen Sound hospital for their efforts during the tense and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
People waited in cars or stood outside their vehicles along the road leading to the back of the hospital. They cheered for those coming in to work before seven, then again for workers who went home.
A piper arrived and waited by an employee entrance at the back of the hospital to play for workers headed home for the day.
The pep rally was advanced on social media, said another of the organizer, Ann Milne.
Milne said before the rally that she suspected a couple of hundred people might come out to show their support for healthcare workers, though numbers could be much higher.
About 50 cars arrived and parked on either side of the road leading to the back of the hospital and across the road at the high school. A group of hospital workers in scrubs came outside and waved to people as horns blasted support.
“We’re here to support the hospital workers, everybody who’s in there . . . and show our love,” said Jen Hladil, whose son, Nathan, 11, stood up through the sunroof of their SUV and held a sign of thanks, while her husband Dan sat with him.
The local Home Hardware store owner heard about the event on Facebook and she posted about it on her Facebook site too. People who stood outside of their cars made efforts to keep apart from one another, instructions Hladil read on Facebook.
Milne said she wanted to do something to support hospital workers.
“People in Owen Sound, a lot of people are feeling they’re helpless and they’d like to do something positive . . . And this might be something to show support for the frontline workers and just to raise some community spirit,” she said.
“I know some of the frontline workers have indicated to me it’s almost that they’re waiting for the other shoe to drop; it’s getting quite anxious and tense because we’ve not been hit hard up this way. But I know they’re feeling anxious.”
Milne said people were asked to stay in their cars to respect public health guidance.
“With the social distancing, that’s why we’re asking them to stay in their cars, with the exception of maybe a few people maybe lined out banging pots and pans and whatnot as they come out the driveway of the hospital.”
Another rally organizer, Bill McFarlane, walked along the road and individually asked people in their cars to drive to the nearby hospice or one of Owen Sound’s long-term care homes to make some noise in support of workers there too.
Tuesday the Grey Bruce Health Unit reported a 40thlab-confirmed case of COVID-19. One person is in hospital, 10 have recovered and 13 of the people infected are healthcare workers.
Maple View Long-Term Care Home in Owen Sound has staff and residents infected, the only long-term care facility in Grey-Bruce with confirmed cases.
Nationally, 823 total COVID-19 deaths were reported among more than 26,000 total cases Tuesday afternoon. Health officials believe there are many more infected people who have not been tested.
Milne, whose husband is a paramedic and whose daughter is a nurse, and others helped organize the event by reaching out to their contacts and inviting them to attend over the last couple of weeks.
Some nurses responded with gratitude to her intention to do this, Milne said.
Meanwhile, Wednesday at 1 p.m., Owen Sound city police, city and Inter Township firefighters and paramedics are planning a drive-past at Owen Sound hospital and at some of the city nursing homes in their own show of support for workers there.
However, police ask the public not join them for this parade, to be mindful of public health direction to stay home and physically separated from others. Instead, they suggest showing their support online, through window signs and in similar ways.