Things must be getting pretty dark when the mayor has to send out a statement on Saturday night asking everyone to take it easy less than a week after the start of a new lockdown. But after days of some businesses threatening to ignore the shutdown, a protest on the same that was piggybacked by the usual anti-mask suspects, and a general sense of tiredness from COVID-19 restrictions, the mayor had to say something.
“When we are not all in this together, it just makes it harder – and makes it more likely that it will be even longer before we can get back to normal,” Mayor Cam Guthrie said in a statement. “We can’t be gambling with the health and safety of our fellow Guelphites.”
“I know that repeated lockdowns are incredibly difficult on businesses and their employees. I hear you,” Guthrie explained. “No one wants this roller coaster to end more than I do. I will continue to fight for business assistance from the federal and provincial governments, working together with Guelph’s Member of Parliament Lloyd Longfield and MPP Mike Schreiner. I have fought for businesses from day one, and I will continue to fight for you through the recovery and beyond.”
On Saturday, a small gathering of about 60 people took part in a demonstration downtown, ostensibly to protest the latest state of emergency initiated Wednesday by the Government of Ontario, but the GuelphToday.com article noted the presence of anti-vaccination protestors at the march too.
“It is quite apparent that the small businesses in our community are suffering and holding on by a thread, and the lack of support from our city staff is causing irreparable damage,” Pina Marfisi, the owner of Acqua salon, wrote in a letter to GuelphToday.com. Marfisi and Acqua have become the leading voice in local disgruntlement against the new lockdown measures.
“Acqua Salon’s position is to raise awareness for these small business’s closures, and addresses the reality of theirs and their employees being on the brink of financial collapse,” Marfisi wrote. “It is not just about getting a haircut. They too have families to feed , bills to pay and the right to earn a living, like everyone else.”
Acqua’s Quebec Street location was visited by bylaw enforcement last week, and a City of Guelph spokesperson affirmed in the media that they would consider revoking the business license of any business that opens in violation of the shutdown rules. Marfisi’s letter was highly critical of this reaction, and said the City seemed “proud to suspend a small business’s license.”
“As a municipality, we don’t make all these rules – including the lockdowns – but staff have a responsibility and an obligation to implement Provincial directives and public health measures,” Guthrie said seemingly in response to the accusation. “Please don’t take your frustrations out on City staff. They have a job to do, and it’s not an easy one, especially during these times.”
The mayor addressed the fact that there are several people in Guelph now stricken with COVID-19, but he did not address the dangerous new alliance between small businesses and COVID conspiracists. Dan Collen, a journalist who follows and investigates conspiracy theorists and anti-mask protests, says that small businesses are vulnerable to these groups, despite their far-right ideology, because they feel that no one else is listening.
“It leaves business owners in a really tough situation, because they don’t want to align with far-right ideologies like anti-LGBTQ rhetoric most of the time, but there’s no other advocacy they can get to support their business,” Collen says on this week’s Guelph Politicast. “In my personal opinion, the general theme is that premiers are doing these half-lockdowns for short periods of time that get the numbers low, but not low enough to then start everything back up. It’s not a good long term solution because it feels like we’re playing catch-up constantly.”
To wit, it was almost a month ago that the region was flirting with yellow. On March 15, the 7-day moving rate of confirmed cases was 23.1 per 100,000 while test positivity was 1.3 per cent. On Friday, it was 121.5 per cent per 100,000 and 5.1 per cent, which is an increase of 400 to 500 per cent in those trends in less than four weeks. Before last weekend’s Easter holiday the moving rate of confirmed cases was 42 per 100,000 and test positivity is 1.9 per cent, a nearly 300 per cent increase in just over a week.
Sunday saw the biggest one day increase in new COVID-19 cases in Ontario since the start of the pandemic with 4,456. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health does not post new COVID numbers over the weekend, but Public Health Ontario says that there were 98 new cases in our area on Saturday and 61 on Sunday. Friday’s numbers from Public Health itself brought the current number of active cases in the region up to 441, with 275 of those cases in Guelph alone.