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With Sudbury opening and Timmins not, health officials urging people to stick close to home

Porcupine Health Unit region continues to battle against variants of concern, and while there’s no stay-at-home order in place, travel between communities is still discouraged
2020-06-29 Timmins sign summer
(Maija Hoggett/TimminsToday)

Most of Ontario moves to the Step 1 of the province’s reopening roadmap on Friday, June 11. Most, but not all.

The Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) region, which covers an enormous swath of territory from Timmins to the James Bay coast, continues to struggle with COVID-19. The area currently has more than 300 active cases, and has confirmed two cases of the virulent Delta variant.

Sudbury.com has received several messages from readers concerned that when the Public Health Sudbury & Districts region opens to Step 1 on Friday, shoppers from Timmins will be heading to the Nickel City for shopping, and they will be bringing the virus and its variants with them.

It is perhaps important to note that two-thirds of the cases in the PHU region are in communities along the James Bay coast. These are remote communities with only rail or fly-in access, so it is unlikely many will be travelling all the way to Sudbury to shop.

As for Timmins and area residents heading down Highway 144 to Sudbury for shopping this weekend, Sudbury.com asked Greater Sudbury Police, Public Health Sudbury and the city about the concerns members of the public have expressed to us.

Mayor Brian Bigger said he is aware of public concerns related to travellers from Timmins visiting Sudbury for shopping. While there are no travel restrictions in place, he said he raised the issue today at a Community Control Group meeting and officials will be monitoring the situation and while be prepared to act if need be. 

"We do understand the concern that our residents have," Bigger said. "The decision to keep the Emergency Brake on in Timmins is a local decision and there are no travel restrictions currently being imposed by the province. That being said, we will be monitoring the situation closely, and should there be any issues that arise that cause significant health concerns, we will work with our partners to act appropriately."

GSPS spokesperson Kaitlyn Dunn said with the lifting of the stay-at-home order on June 2, there are no restrictions on intra-provincial travel.

Public Health Sudbury acknowledged the fact there is not stay-at-home order in place, but said it is still advisable that people stick within their region.

“With respect to travel, this means avoiding travel outside of your region as much as possible,” PHSD said in a statement. “We are not dealing with the same virus as last summer so although there is no stay-at-home order in effect, it is important to continue to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and COVID-19 variants.”

This sentiment was echoed in a news release from PHU in which Dr. Lianne Catton, the medical officer of health for the Porcupine region, said with the continued spread of virulent variants, it is important for residents of Timmins and area to limit contacts.

 “With the PHU seeing ongoing record numbers of cases and outbreaks, the presence of another variant which spreads even more easily than the B.1.1.7 variant is extremely worrisome. It is more important than ever that everyone follow the public health measures diligently and limit contacts with others who we do not live with,” Catton said.

“Now more than ever we need every single person in the PHU — not just Timmins — to treat every outing outside of your home as a potential low risk exposure … We are urging community members to limit outings and thus potential exposures by staying home still except for essentials.”

If people choose to travel, Public Health Sudbury urges them to:

  • Always practise the usual personal protective measures such as physical distancing, wearing a mask when that isn’t possible, and frequent hand hygiene.
  • Don’t travel if you, or someone you are travelling with, have any symptoms of COVID-19 or feel sick.
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms when you travel and when you return. If you get symptoms, even if mild, isolate where you are and seek assessment and testing.
  • Check travel advisories for destination(s) as there may be variation between provinces and communities. Visit websites of provincial governments, local health units, or other authorities for the latest information.
  • Remember, only members of your household should be in your residence.
  • Book your appointment to get vaccinated. By getting the vaccine you will be less likely to get sick with COVID-19.