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Stop the spread of coronavirus: Georgina resident asks beachgoers to stay home this summer

Georgina resident worried warm weather could mean more community spread of COVID-19. Town hosts virtual Canada Day celebration
April 27, 2020
Amanda Persico

Environment and Climate Change Canada recently released its prediction for summer -- hot, dry and above normal temperatures.

And that has some Georgina residents worried about the summer months -- great for camping, chilling by the fire and heading to the beach.

Along with cottagers and vacationers could also come more cases of coronavirus to the small beach town, said Keswick resident Michelle George.

Aside from the parking and noise nuisances, weekenders and beachgoers didn’t really pose much of a problem.

But now it could be life or death for George, who suffers from lupus.

“If it wasn’t for COVID[-19] it wouldn’t be an issue for me,” she said. “Summer is right around the corner and there’s no end in sight.”

With warm weather and the unofficial start of camping season, Georgina is often flooded with beachgoers, campers and vacationers.

Full-time residents sign

A sign seen in the Muskoka area. Georgina resident Michelle George hopes to see similar signs in the Georgina area in time for summer. | Courtesy of Michelle George.
And the fact that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau crossed the provincial border to visit family over the Easter long weekend only “encourages people to go,” said George.

“It’s scary,” she said.

And George is worried the chances of community spread will increase as more people are drawn to town.   

In an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, the town recently cancelled its annual Canada Day celebration. Instead, the town is hosting a virtual celebration, which is still in the works.

“It’s a new world and a new normal, and this year that means we will be celebrating Canada Day differently,” said Mayor Margaret Quirk.

“On July 1, we will come together by staying apart. Canada Day is a time to show what it means to be Canadian and how we value the incredible country we all call home."

As of April 21, there have been 19 coronavirus cases in Georgina -- six through local institutional outbreaks, one contracted through local transmission, two through close contact and 10 are still under investigation by York Region Public Health.

Until further notice, the town has closed pubic parks, boat launches and fishing areas as well as barricaded public beach access.

“You can’t stop anyone swimming in the lake,” she said. “Are we waiting for cases of community spread? This is a beach town -- there should be measures in place.”

The province has shut down all provincial parks and camping areas, including Sibbald Point in Georgina, until April 30.

As of April 17, there was no directive from the province to remain closed or to open provincial parks beyond April 30.

Not only is there concern over the spread of coronavirus, but also the strain on the community itself.

There’s only one hospital in Newmarket, grocery stores are limited in the area and there is a high population of seniors in town, she added.

“I’m from Brampton, there’s thousands of grocery stores there,” she said. “Here, there’s already a shortage on fresh fruit.”

After months of debate and discussion last year, the town established a licensing regime for short-term rentals such as Airbnbs with applications starting January 2020.

As of April 14, the town has issued two short-term rental licences and another 18 applications are under review.

Also, the province has deemed short-term rentals as essential services, noting any rentals booked after April 4 are only provided to individuals in need of housing during the emergency period.

This includes health-care workers who cannot go home for fear of transmitting COVID-19.

According to the town, local short-term rentals are allowed to operate under the conditions of the provincial order.

Part of the town’s response to COVID-19 includes suspending building permit and fire inspections, including those related to short-term rental applications.

To report violations or unlicensed rentals, residents are encouraged to contact the town’s bylaw department at 905-476-4301 x2279 and to leave a detailed message. For after hours, residents can call 905-476-4301 x2281