Mandatory Face Coverings in Indoor Public Settings
On July 7, 2020, Dr. Charles Gardner, Simcoe and Muskoka's medical officer of health, issued a letter to the Councils and the CAOs of the municipalities in the County of Simcoe, the District of Muskoka, and the Cities of Orillia and Barrie, drawing upon regulation O. Reg 263/20 s.4(2) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act R.S.O. 1990, to instruct the businesses and organizations within the municipalities serviced by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, requiring persons within publicly accessible indoor locations, including public transit systems, to wear a face covering (i.e. a non-medical mask).
As the County begins to experience a large and increasing number of visitors from parts of the province with a much higher incidence of COVID-19, Council voted last week in favour of issuing a letter from Warden George Cornell, in support of Dr. Gardner's guidance, which is based on emerging evidence suggesting that COVID-19 transmission rates can be reduced with a high level of population compliance of face covering/non-medical mask use. Council opted not to adopt a by-law that would apply to all lower tier municipalities in Simcoe County.
Early Learning and Child Care System Update
On March 25, 2020, the Province directed the County as a Consolidated Municipal Service Manager (CMSM) to consider which licensed child care facilities might be able to open for the purpose of emergency care provision for children with parents working within select sectors. As a result, three centres were reopened, operating under strict guidelines provided by Public Health. While the demand for spaces significantly exceeded availability, these three sites collectively served a total of 110 children, with no resulting cases of COVID-19.
On June 9, 2020, the Province announced that licensed child care operators would be permitted to reopen effective June 12, as part of the provincial 'Phase 2 reopening of Ontario'. The announcement also established June 26 as the date for closure of emergency child care.
On July 14, Council received an update on the early learning and child care system, which outlined the significant challenges for families, operators and CMSMs as a result of the closure of licensed child care centres in March 2020, as well as the difficulties in reopening.
2021 High level Budget Direction
The potential economic effects on the County of Simcoe's services due to declining global markets, possible disruption in supply chains, and measures being introduced at various levels of government to curtail the spread of the virus, are significant. Staff continue to monitor this situation as it develops and provide the 2021 draft budget based on the most current information.As a regional service provider, the County provides significant services to vulnerable residents; with demand for these services increasing in times of need.
At the last session, Council provided initial direction to staff in support of developing assumptions for the 2021 budget that will be presented to County Council in the Fall, traditionally followed by approval in November, allowing the County to begin issuing tenders for the following year. Council directed that the draft 2021 County of Simcoe property tax levy be based on a 0% increase.
LINX Transit Update
Simcoe County LINX entered Phase 2 of the implementation plan in August 2019, successfully launching Route 2 - Wasaga Beach, Stayner, Angus and Barrie, Route 3 - Orillia, Oro-Medonte and Barrie, and assuming Route 4 - Wasaga Beach to Collingwood. The LINX Transit system observed strong ridership performance for the remainder of 2019, as it immediately gained traction within the new communities that it serves. LINX ridership continued to grow into 2020, with 14,957 rides in January - 85% over budgeted figures - and February, with 13,505 trips - 87% over budgeted figures.
Though Transit service levels have been reduced as ridership has decreased due to COVID-19, Transit staff are monitoring ridership levels and restoring standard service hours as required. Additional sanitization measures and Public Health guidelines due to the coronavirus remain in effect.
On July 14, Council received a LINX Transit update, including plans to roll out Route 5, Alliston to Bradford on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 with free service for the first month. Route 6 Penetanguishene/ Midland – Tay – Severn – Oro-Medonte – Orillia will have a later start date due to the delay of bus deliveries as a result of COVID-19.
Temporary Pandemic Pay- Shelters and Supportive Housing Sector
On April 25, 2020, the Province announced its COVID-19: Temporary Pandemic Pay Initiative, aimed at helping frontline staff working under stressful conditions and at heightened risk during the pandemic. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will provide the related funding to CMSMSs for subsequent allocation to eligible staff working in shelters and supportive housing settings.
Last week, Council received a report on the Temporary Pandemic Pay, which will provide an additional $4.00 per hour for eligible frontline workers in Shelters and Supportive Housing settings, effective for 16 weeks from April 24, 2020 to August 13, 2020. Eligible workers who work at least 100 hours in a designated four-week period will also receive an additional lump sum payment of $250 per each four-week period, for a possible total of $1000 over 16 weeks.