The number of golfers taking advantage of the warm spring weather over the weekend to get out on the links at La Cité Golf Course in Hawkesbury may be an optimistic sign about the future success of the provincial restart. Kenneth Bracken, one of the co-owners of the golf course, reported an average of 250 golfers every days over the three days of the long weekend, which he noted is “a bit above average” for the course at this time of the year.
“The weather also helped,” he said. “It all went very well. The mood was great. Everybody was just happy to be out.”
While Phase One of the Ontario Restart means some relaxation of the provincial government’s pandemic protection restrictions dealing with essential and non-essential businesses, the social distancing guidelines and other conditions of the pandemic guidelines are still in place to prevent a “second wave” of COVID-19 infection cases. Bracken observed that the demand for social distancing did not hamper activities at La Cité golf course.
“Everybody was respecting everybody,” he said.
“We had a good weekend,” said Sylvain Beauchamp, general manager and head pro, at the Hawkesbury Golf and Curling Club, adding that all the golfers who turned out over the long weekend seemed “very happy” to be outside on the greens at last.
“They’re happy that it (province) is reopening,” said Stéphanie Simard, Clarence-Rockland Chamber of Commerce president (CoC), regarding feedback from chamber members about the Phase One launch of the Ontario Restart plan.
She noted that many members are asking for more details on how the Restart plan in general and Phase One in particular is supposed to work.
“Most of them are asking, ‘How can I open and make sure everybody is safe?’” she said.
Another concern, she noted, for many chamber members also wonder if there will be any financial help from either of the senior levels of government for some of the extra expenses that many businesses will encounter to meet the social distancing and health safety measures of the pandemic protection guidelines.
“Disinfection is not cheap,” she said, adding that some retail outfits now need to install plexiglass shields and invest in personal protection gear for their cashiers and other staff.
“How can you do this right?” Simard said. “There are a lot of expenses to come for those businesses who may not be prepared.”
“There’s a real excitement about it,” said Julie Brisson, Prescott-Russell Chamber of Commerce president (PRCoC), regarding local business anticipation of the event.
Brisson noted that there is still some confusion among local business owners about how to meet the guidelines for social distancing and public health protection under Phase One.
“A lot of them feel they’re lacking clear direction on what they need to do,” she said, adding that the PRCoC would like further information from either the provincial government or the Eastern Ontario Health Unit.
EOHU keeps watch
Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, chief medical officer for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), noted during his regular regional media teleconferences, that the start of Phase One is a positive sign for the province, but warned against complacency.
“I am counting on the public to maintain physical distancing,” he said, adding that people need to continue wearing masks when they go out into the community and also limit themselves to essential travel when possible. “We are going to be monitoring closely and ensuring there’s no spike in our (COVID-19) numbers.”
Dr. Roumeliotis expressed optimism about Ontario Restart Phase One.
“The message is ‘Yes, we’re opening up a bit, but we still need to be vigilant,’” he said. “The light at the end of the tunnel is a little brighter.”
Phase One guidelines
Premier Doug Ford announced May 14 that the official launch of Ontario Restart Phase One would be May 19 but some seasonal and recreational businesses, like golf courses, would be allowed to reopen to the public over the May long weekend.
A complete list Phase One businesses able to resume operations is at https://files.ontario.ca/mof-detailed-list-stage-1-openings-en-2020-05-14.pdf?_ga=2.157140091.1942130718.1589806485-1651181975.1561573561. The premier noted that both the success of Phase One and the chance of Phase Two of Ontario Restart following soon after depends on both Ontario residents and business owners continuing to follow social distancing guidelines and other mandatory pandemic protection policies.
“During the last several weeks, the people of Ontario have been called on to make incredible sacrifices to help us stop the spread of COVID-19,” stated Ford, “including staying home from work, closing down businesses, and going without a regular paycheque. We are taking a cautious, balanced approach to our economic reopening, to protect the health and safety of everyone.”
Along with golf courses, the May long weekend part of Phase One included reopening of marinas, public boat launches and boating clubs for recreational fun. Owners of private parks and campgrounds could reopen to do work needed to prepare for the summer season, and also allow clients with full-season contracts access to their on-site trailers and RVs.
Businesses that board animals, like stables, were able to allow owners to visit, care for and ride their horses. Animal services, including grooming, training and other pet care, along with veterinary clinics are allowed to resume taking appointments.
Stores with separate outside entrances located in shopping malls were allowed to reopen. But all interior malls remain closed.
All restrictions against non-essential construction projects are now lifted. Indoor and outdoor household services like cleaning and maintenance, housekeeping, and others can resume operations if they are able to follow public health guidelines.