After a conference call with cottage county mayors yesterday, Premier Doug Ford backtracked somewhat from his earlier stance on cottage owners visiting their seasonal homes. With Victoria Day weekend approaching Ford is now saying seasonal residents heading up to cottage country must ensure they are physical distancing, while any would-be visitors are asked to stay home.
“We are still battling a terrible virus, so we are asking seasonal residents travelling to their cottages to practice the same public health measures as usual, including no public gatherings, avoiding nonessential travel as much as possible, and continue to practice social distancing,” Ford said in a statement this morning.
“Cottage country residents are known for their hospitality and normally they would be welcoming tourists with open arms right now. This year, however, they are asking visitors to help them fight the spread of COVID-19 and hold-off travelling to these regions until it is safe to do so.”
Ford’s message comes after a joint call with cottage country mayors on Wednesday. The premier had hinted during his daily briefings earlier this week that he would not issue an emergency order preventing cottage owners from travelling to their seasonal properties on the long weekend.
But today Ford stressed that the wishes of locals in cottage country communities be respected.
“I know Ontarians are eager to enjoy the great outdoors, but there will be plenty of long weekends to come,” he said. “Right now, we need to focus on doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians.” Earlier this week Ford had said “you can only hold back cottagers for so long.” In some cottage communities, season cottage owner provide up to half of the municipalities’ tax base. But local mayors are concerned about outsiders spreading the virus and overwhelming small rural healthcare systems.