ontario green zones

Ontario green zone officials say locals should greet out-of-towners with kindness

Torontonians: We're not all insufferable jerks who think the world revolves around us! Some of us are even worthy of being treated with respect by people in smaller communities.

This is what I take as the crux of a new message issued Wednesday by public health officials in the newly-reopened Ontario region of Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington.

"Our KFL&A region is an exceptional place to live," reads an unattributed message posted to the local public health unit's website on Feb. 10, not long after the area left lockdown to enter the green zone of Ontario's modified colour-coded COVID-19 response framework.

"We are home to a military base, correctional and regional health care facilities, post-secondary institutions, and innovative construction projects," the statement continues.

"As a result, we have many temporary residents, visitors, and essential workers who may not have identification with a local address working, attending, or visiting these sites in our community."

While Canada's largest city isn't mentioned by name, it's of note that people in the region (which includes Kingston and Napanee, Ontario) have been expressing outrage and concern on Twitter over the mere thought of Toronto and other "hot spot" residents coming into their towns to eat or shop.

KFL&A also issued its statement not long after officials in another newly-green zone region, Hastings Prince Edward, made headlines for banning local restaurants, hotel and salon owners from accepting out-of-town bookings.

In direct contrast to what health officials in the Hastings Prince Edward region have stated, KFL&A officials are "asking everyone to be understanding and welcoming" to people who may be working or visiting from outside the community.

"Temporary residents, visitors, and essential workers need to continue to access services in our community," reads the statement. "Please show kindness."

It's a bold stance to take, given current government recommendations against non-essential travel in the province, and the fact that all but three Ontario regions are remain under stay-at-home orders.

The public health unit is defending its decision nonetheless as locals rail against the move on Twitter, clarifying that many people visit the region from outside to access essential services.

"Our region welcomes many people from outside the region each year who require essential medical treatments and they reside in areas with little to no access to medical facilities," wrote KFL&A in response to one critic on Twitter.

"While here they may have the need to visit non essential businesses such as restaurants and stores."

Under the province's COVID-19 recovery framework, people from "grey" or "red" regions are discouraged from region-hopping into more-permissive zones. They are not, however, forbidden.

The fears of people who worry that interprovincial travel could worsen the pandemic are not unfounded.

More than 100,000 people from the GTA were found to have left their own regions against public health recommendations before the most recent province-wide shutdown came into effect on Boxing Day, after all, leading to a subsequent spike in new daily cases of the virus all over Ontario.

It's been nearly three months since hair salons, gyms, indoor restaurants, bars, cafes and all non-essential retail stores were shut down in Toronto, which is expected to leave lockdown mode on Feb. 22 if public health indicators are trending in the right direction.

All other regions (save for York and Peel) are expected to re-enter the colour-coded framework on Feb. 16, though which category they are placed into will depend on local numbers at the time.

Stay-at-home orders were lifted in the regions of Hastings Prince EdwardKFL&A ingston and Renfrew County on Wednesday morning.

All three areas now fall under the colour-coded framework's least-restrictive "green-prevent" category, meaning that most non-essential businesses, hair salons, gyms and restaurants can reopen.

Lead photo by

Marcus Jeffrey

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