After backlash from local businesses and residents about the looming lockdown for Simcoe-Muskoka, Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Rob Keffer addressed his concerns over the devastating effects of another shutdown to local business in a letter Sunday night to Premier Doug Ford.
"As the mayor of Bradford West Gwillimbury, I have been fortunate to see the efforts of so many members of this community rise up and support each other throughout the darkest days of the pandemic. Neighbours, local businesses, community leaders, and anonymous supporters have banded together to offer help and comfort to those in need," he wrote.
"We have persevered through many hardships while maintaining faith that better days are close at hand. However, with the announcement this past Friday that the Simcoe-Muskoka area is moving to the grey-lockdown status, I am deeply concerned that many of our local businesses will not survive to see those better days.
"Small, independent businesses are the economic heartbeat of our town. Forcing this closure so soon after allowing them to open is devastating to hard-working employers and employees that have done their best to operate safely while struggling to survive financially.
"I fully appreciate how difficult it must be for the government to balance health and economic concerns. Nonetheless, I ask that you reconsider this shift in status for Simcoe-Muskoka or at a minimum, adjust the regulations such that all small businesses can operate subject to abiding by appropriate health guidelines. This would seem to be a low-risk change when one considers that a growing percentage of our most vulnerable are or will soon be immunized.
"I am immeasurably proud of my hometown. This community is resilient but we are exhausted; please help to restore faith by allowing our small businesses to operate and contribute to a better tomorrow."
The letter comes just hours before Bradford and the rest of Simcoe-Muskoka are about to enter the grey zone, which will see all non-essential businesses close including personal services, fitness centres and restaurants.
In an update call with the media Sunday afternoon, top doctor for the region Dr. Charles Gardner responded to the backlash received over the weekend from the community about the decision to move from red to grey.
The health unit says moving into the Grey Zone is an 'emergency brake' to help stop a third wave from happening or to limit its severity. Cases from the week of February 14-20 were 30 percent higher than the previous week, which they say is a cause for concern.
Village Media asked Gardner about the slight decrease in cases and the percentage at which it is spreading for the week of Feb. 21-25, and whether or not he moved too quickly in asking the province to move Simcoe-Muskoka into grey while local numbers currently teeter between orange and red levels, which would include fewer cases.
“I think that's a fair criticism that I would accept. I was and am very concerned about the UK variant and I know what it has done in other countries," Gardner said. "I know that we have more of it than any other health unit (jurisdiction). I was expecting some evidence that this was going to go in the wrong direction, and that was the beginning of it.
"It may still very much go in the wrong direction, but the fact it has declined a bit runs counter to my original decision," he said.
For a full breakdown of the province’s colour-coded COVID-19 Response Framework, click here.
-with files from Shawn Gibson