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Region declares state of emergency

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Regional Chair John Henry and Durham Regional Council have declared a state of emergency in Durham Region due to COVID-19.

The declaration was made after Henry and his team listened to information collected over the last few days, and in consultation with CAO Elaine Baxter-Trahair, the regional emergency control group, the regional medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Kyle, and Durham emergency management.

“This is a critical time in our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19,” says Henry in a press release. “Cases are climbing across Durham Region. We must do all we can to keep our community safe and flatten the curve.”

Henry says flattening the curve is extremely important.

“Anything that we can do today to make the safety of our residents better is a good thing, and social distancing is proven to flatten that curve,” says Henry. “Doing the simple things – washing your hands, keeping your distance, not touching your face, changing how you’re outside, how you interact, will go a long way in helping us flatten the curve.”

For residents, Henry says declaring an emergency is important because it makes sure the services the region operates will continue to meet the needs of residents.

“Durham Region is very unique. We’re responsible for a number of things. Health and social services are incredibly busy, long term care, water and sewer,” says Henry, adding putting the tools in place gives the opportunity to meet the needs of residents.

In the following weeks, Henry explains if residents who work in a non-essential service continue to go into work, they may find someone at their business telling them they have to close.

“We are working in partnership with all levels of government… to make sure we continue to meet the needs of our residents,” he says.

However, Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter is taking a different approach, noting the declaration of emergency doesn’t really affect the city.

“The region took those steps, to my understanding, because they are in charge of health and social services,” says Carter. “Three of the other eight municipalities in Durham also made that declaration, but from our call yesterday with [the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario] and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark, his advice was that there was no advantage of going to a state of emergency because the province had already done so.”

Carter adds it doesn’t open up any funding or resources for the city to follow suit. It was a decision by Henry, and Henry felt it was the right thing to do, says Carter.

The mayor also doesn’t believe the city will be declaring a state of emergency anytime soon.

“I don’t believe that we need to at this time. Five of the eight municipalities in Durham also agree with that,” says Carter.

However, Carter reinforces if the province hadn’t already declared a state of emergency, it might have been a different story.

“Because the province has done so, we have access to all of the resources that a city can be able to depend upon,” he says.

Other municipalities in the region to declare an emergency include Whitby, and Pickering.