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Bigger: City can revert back to Phase 2 if Sudbury sees spike in COVID-19 cases

Mayor says he’s proud of Sudbury’s pandemic successes thus far, urges citizens to continue to follow public health directives
Mayor Brian Bigger. (Supplied)

Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger says he is disappointed but not surprised by the city's recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

The city has seen 12 new positive cases since July 20, including eight positive cases on July 27 alone. Mayor Bigger issued a statement on July 28 expressing his disappointment in the surge in cases while calling out those who put themselves at risk of catching the virus and also putting others in the community at risk.

"I was really disappointed, but it's not really that unexpected — COVID is quite contagious and we've seen spikes happen across the country and around the world," said Bigger.

"It's going to happen, but we've done such a great job up until now following the directions of the medical officer of health (Dr. Penny Sutcliffe) and so I'm hoping we'll get back on that track."

Despite Sudbury's successes in having some of the lowest COVID-19 numbers across the province, the mayor said that if the city was to see a significant spike, taking a step back into phase 2 of reopening would certainly be an option.

"It's absolutely an option that's on the table,” said Bigger. “The medical officer of public health has significant powers in this type of emergency and what we've seen so far are directives and I'm not sure what else we need to do.

"We're in the midst of global pandemic. It has not yet peaked globally, the numbers continue to be alarming as we speak, so it's still growing at an alarming rate across the world, and you'd think the directives from the medical officer of health and the numbers we're seeing would be enough to take COVID-19 seriously."

While the mayor had praise for Sudburians following health directives, there are still pockets of citizens who are refusing to adhere to mask policies that have been outlined by public health and adopted by many businesses around the city.

Bigger would not criticize groups fighting against mask wearing, but instead complimented those who have adhered to public health guidelines.

"All I can say is we've done quite well listening to the experts and what they're telling us, and they're telling us to wear masks and wash our hands and follow proper social distancing," said Bigger. 

"We've been very successful up to this point, and it makes sense to me that we would continue to follow the experts. I do believe that the majority of Sudburians are following the experts."

The mayor also responded to questions about his visibility throughout the course of the pandemic, as comments have cropped up online that he has not been present during what has been a difficult time for many Sudburians.

"I believe that I've been in the media more than I've even been, and I'm continually working behind the scenes as well,” he said.

“I'm working closely with (Dr. Sutcliffe). One of the things that we don't want to do is confuse the messaging between the federal and provincial governments.

"They've been quite clear in their directions and we've taken all of those directions into account and adapted them to Sudbury. In fact, many of the steps that we've gone through since the start, we've followed a precautionary approach, and I would say that we took steps in advance of the province on controls in our long-term care facilities, and we did testing before it was expanded throughout the province and provided masks to our employees and suggested use of masks prior to other directions.

“I know myself that I've been a significant part of that decision-making, and I really want people to focus on the experts in this situation, which is Dr. Sutcliffe."

Bigger and Greater Sudbury city council are now on their summer meeting schedule and won't be holding any regularly scheduled meetings until Aug. 10, 11 and 12. From a city perspective, staff are still working in close contact with public health officials and are working to keep the city's finances in check amid the impacts that COVID-19 has had.

"We're working very hard with council and staff to avoid large COVID-related tax impacts," said Bigger. "We're preparing council to make decisions, some maybe hard decisions, but we're very aware of the impact on some people's finances and yet council has given direction to staff, and I agree, to continue to invest in economic recovery and our capital programs, we're still investing in fixing our roads and other important projects throughout this entire process."

The mayor's overarching message to citizens of Greater Sudbury was to continue to follow public health directives in order for the city to come out in the best possible situation on the other side of the pandemic.

"Everybody deserves to feel safe going to work, to work in a safe environment, so the distancing and mask-wearing and hand-sanitizing protocols, and people deserve to have a safe workplace and also for customers will feel safe when they go to those businesses that are following those protocols," said Bigger.

"Over time I believe that those practices will be rewarded in maintaining some strength in our business community. The worst thing that can happen is a very significant surge in cases, which causes us to lock things down and causes people to lock themselves indoors, and it affects the business community and hurts our overall community, in addition to the health and well-being of our citizens."