Yes, We’re Still in a State of Emergency. No, We Don’t Know For How Much Longer.

As more people are get vaccinated, and as the economy continues to re-open, there’s a detail that needs to be addressed: We’re still technically in a state of emergency here in Guelph. In March last year, Mayor Cam Guthrie declared that emergency in the City right as that first wave of COVID-19 started peaking. We’ve now made it through two subsequent waves, so is the day coming with the emergency is over?

To recap, Mayor Cam Guthrie announced the commencement of a local state of emergency on March 26, 2020, which was co-signed by himself and Chief Administrative Officer Scott Stewart.

“It’s not about actions or directions, it’s about sending a very strong message that this is very serious,” Guthrie said at the time. “The actions and directions that [the emergency response group] have taken are exactly what I would have suggested anyway. The state of emergency I declared last night is more about making sure that a message of seriousness is being sent to citizens and businesses across the city.

As it turns out, there’s no built in expiry date or a point where we just stop acting like we’re in a state of emergency, you’ve got to do the paper work. “We actually declared that state of emergency under the provincial legislation, so we actually have to undeclare it,” explained Deputy CAO Colleen Clack Bush earlier this month on the Guelph Politicast. “It’s a very, very formalized legislative process, and we have to notify the Province when that ends.”

On that same podcast, Stewart said that he and the mayor will be taking the advice of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health in terms of when the state of emergency will be formally over and done with. “That’s the advice that we will take and then you’ll see that formally come to an end. And yes, we’ll return to some formal normalcy, although I don’t know what exactly that will look like,” Stewart said. “I think you’ll see that come from us in the next, I’ll say, handful of weeks.”

So could Mayor Guthrie offer a firmer timeline about when the state of emergency will be over? On this week’s Open Sources Guelph he said it’s a questions he’s been thinking about a lot for the last month.

“I’ve been discussing that issue with the administration and the public health unit. I’m not applying pressure, but we need to start to thinking about how to get back to a sense of normal for the city,” Guthrie said. “There are going to be targets that we will look at for the community, and then we will meet those targets collectively as a team, I can look at saying that I’m rescinding the state of emergency.”

Guthrie added that there’s also another consideration. Guelph is not an island unto itself, and the mayor doesn’t want to get ahead of neighbouring communities, especially as they experience more serious rates of COVID infection.

“One of the reasons why I decided not to end the state of emergency in June was because at that time Guelph was sandwiched between Kitchener-Waterloo and Peel, and cases of the Delta variant were really starting to rise and grow,” Guthrie explained. “There are so many moving parts, and we want to be united with our health unit. We don’t want to have Guelph go out on its own, and then Wellington County is doing something else.”

“There’s a lot to consider, and thankful we have smarter people than me who are advising me on things things, and I take that advice very, very seriously,” Guthrie added.

You can hear the whole interview with Mayor Cam Guthrie tomorrow at 5 pm on Open Sources Guelph on CFRU 93.3 fm or live-streamed at cfru.ca!

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