This has been a hard week. We learned from the Leeds Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit that there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in our community. The outbreak stemmed from exposure at a social gathering. The virus has now spread into local businesses, workplaces, recreational sports teams, childcare centres and families. As cases continue to rise in our community, we are reminded just how easily this tenacious virus spreads from person to person.

Impact on municipal departments & facilities

On Wednesday, we shared with you that the outbreak has affected multiple municipal departments with staff receiving notification of possible exposure. Due to the policies in place in our facilities, the exposure is considered low risk by our Health Unit. Impacted municipal staff are following Public Health directives with respect to quarantining, testing and monitoring.

The Municipality is working closely with our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Paula Stewart, and Public Health as we navigate this outbreak together. Yesterday, we announced that municipal facilities are closed to the public, effective immediately for two weeks. Municipal staff remain at work and can be contacted by email or telephone. Our website is also a helpful resource if you are looking for information: www.mississippimills.ca

These steps are being taken to decrease the risk of transmission in an already serious situation by minimizing spaces where uncontrolled gathering could occur and to perform additional cleaning to ensure that our public spaces and workplaces are as safe as we can make them.  Essential services including snow and ice control, garbage collection, water and sewer and fire protection remain fully staffed and operational.

Unfortunately, this means our ice bookings are finished for the 2020/2021 season. I want to acknowledge how sad I am that so many kids, youth and adults are not getting to finish the hockey, skating and broomball seasons two years in a row.  Being active is so important for both physical and mental health and I know this is disappointing for you. I look forward to a better season starting in the fall of 2021.

Community spread

More than ever, it is critically important that we all do our part to reduce the spread. Because the virus spreads so easily, the Health Unit encourages us to stay home as much as possible, limit contact to our own household and to stay local, avoiding travel outside the region. Please follow all public health guidelines including social distancing, sanitizing and wearing your masks.

While there is active spread in our community, monitor for symptoms and get tested if any hint of COVID-19 symptoms develops.  Please do not call the Health Unit! They will notify anyone who is considered a high-risk contact. If you develop a symptom, do a self-assessment and get tested. Testing is available at the Almonte Assessment Centre.

A gentle reminder, please be kind and resist the temptation to speculate or share rumors about someone with COVID-19, where they work or who they may be connected to. Even if you know details, please refrain from sharing them; we all deserve to have our personal health information protected.

Vaccination

Last week, we received the good news that Health Canada had approved AstraZeneca and today it was announced that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has also been approved.  We are all eager to learn about supply availability and how it will impact the local vaccination program.

In our area, rollout of the vaccination program this week has included health care workers in the “Very High Priority Category”, Firefighters, staff in High-Risk Retirement Homes and residents in Retirement Homes.  Next week will see second doses for residents in Long-Term Care and High-Risk Retirement homes as well as preparation for vaccination of Adults over 80 and All Indigenous adults.

Note, the health unit is not taking appointments for those over 80 yet; please refrain from calling to ask about your vaccination timeline!   Booking instructions will be made known on their website, through social media, local radio and newspaper and health care providers.    Keep an eye on the health unit’s website where they provide weekly status updates on the local vaccination program.

Getting support

Remember that it’s ok to not be ok.  A list of resources is available to our community with an expanded section on mental health and well-being. There are lots of programs available to support you or someone you know who needs help.  With everything that’s happening right now, on top of the world being turned upside down for a year, it’s absolutely normal to need some support.

Stay informed

To receive all municipal updates, subscribe to the municipal newsfeed.

For the most up-to-date and locally specific information on COVID-19, keep your eyes on the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit website.

You can also hear weekly updates from our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Paula Stewart, on Lake 88.1 every Wednesday at noon: https://lake88.ca/in-focus/

Over the last 12 months, we have done very well at controlling community spread.  The commitment to COVID-19 protocols that has kept our numbers low is the same commitment it will take to get ahead of the virus now.  Although we long to be passed the COVID-19 protocols and many are growing fatigued by health measures, I ask everyone in our community: Please, redouble your efforts to keep yourself, your family, your neighbours and coworkers safe.   Don’t let your guard down now.

In closing, I wish you strength and perseverance as we face one more challenge together.  Keep checking on those who may be feeling lonely or vulnerable or scared and if you need help, reach out for support. Please be patient, kind and gentle to those you interact with online or while out of the home. I encourage you to also be patient, kind and gentle to yourself.  These are not easy times, but as we have proven to ourselves, our families, our neighbours and our community over and over during the last year – we can do hard things together.   We will do this together too.

Be safe, be well, and stay strong.

Christa Lowry Mayor of Mississippi Mills