In the Face of Omicron, Guelph Cancels the End of the State of Emergency

For the last few weeks, there’s been an air of anticipation that the City of Guelph might soon emerge from the state of emergency initiated in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Blame Omicron, but the end of the state of emergency has been indefinitely postponed as the City aims to “mobilize City resources as needed” in order to stay on top of this latest COVID-19 variant.

“With the rise of the Omicron variant, revoking the state of emergency would be the wrong thing to do,” said Mayor Guthrie in a statement Tuesday morning.

“How fast things can change! Just a few weeks ago we were hopeful we would soon be looking at this pandemic in the rear-view mirror,” Guthrie explained. “A continued state of emergency will help ensure we can mobilize City resources as needed to step up the fight against this virus. I continue to urge all residents to get vaccinated, get their booster shots as soon as they are eligible, and continue to follow guidance from Public Health.”

In an interview recorded last week for this coming Thursday’s episode of Open Sources Guelph, Guthrie said that there were numerous considerations being factored into any decision to end the state of emergency including the case count, the ability for the City to adapt quickly to new developments, and establishing a sense of seriousness with residents.

“Metrics and data and numbers all feed into the decision making process, along with the fact that we have three different communities within the public health unit,” Guthrie said. “We don’t want anyone to go rogue because we’re one public health unit and there’s three municipalities so that’s why we’ve co-ordinated with the advice of the medical officer of health and made sure she supports that decision.”

Shortly after Guelph’s announcement on Tuesday, Wellington County made a similar move to postpone ending the state of emergency. “Due to the spread of the Omicron variant in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, and its uncertainty, the County’s State of Emergency will remain in place,” said Warden Kelly Linton.I continue to urge all residents to get vaccinated, get their booster shots as soon as they are eligible, and continue to follow guidance from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.”

“I am grateful that the elected officials and staff of our municipalities continue to do everything they can to protect residents of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph,” said Medical Officer of Health in her own statement.

“The choice to keep the states of emergency in place is a choice to prioritize the health of the people in this region,” Mercer added. “It is a choice that will save lives. As the Omicron variant spreads through our region, all of us need to take the necessary steps and continue to make the tough choices that will help protect us and preserve our progress against this pandemic.”

The announcement that the state of emergency will remain in effect comes a few days after it was announced that Guelph had its first case of the Omicron variant in a young person between the ages of 10 and 20. A source told Guelph Politico on the weekend, that the case was in a student at John F. Ross Secondary School, which announced Monday that they were cancelled all in-person classes for the rest of the week.

“In order to ensure student and staff safety, and the continuity of learning for students, John F. Ross CVI will shift from in-person learning to remote learning starting Tuesday December 14, 2021,” said a statement on the school’s website. The holiday break begins for all Upper Grand District Board schools on Friday, but only students in specialized class placements  will be able to continue learning in-person until then.

The WDG Public Health website currently lists only one confirmed case of COVID-19 at Ross as of Tuesday morning. There are presently 46 cases of COVID-19 in Guelph and area schools, 42 in students and 4 in staff, but the highest concentration of cases are in two private schools. At the Guelph Montessori School there are 11 student and 3 staff members who currently have COVID, and St. Joseph’s Catholic School has 12 students and 1 staff member with the virus.

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