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Klassen issues order allowing fines for not complying with Public Health directions

Those who do not comply could face $5,000 per day fine

HURON-PERTH – Dr. Miriam Klassen, medical officer of health for Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH), has issued a Class Order under Section 22 of Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act that allows for fines to be issued to those who have been asked by Public Health to self-isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19 but fail to do so.

The order came into effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 29 and applies to all residents of Huron and Perth counties and can be enforced by Public Health inspectors, and provincial offence officers such as police and municipal bylaw officers.

“This class order applies to anyone in Huron-Perth who has been directed to self-isolate or quarantine for any reason related to COVID-19 by Huron-Perth Public Health or a health care provider at an assessment testing centre, emergency department or family doctor’s office,” said Klassen.

“This could include someone diagnosed, someone who is awaiting a test who has symptoms or someone who has been identified as a high-risk contact.”

Those who do not comply can be given a ticket under the Reopening Ontario Act with a fine of $750 per day. Individuals could be charged and fined up to $5,000 per day under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

“Early in this pandemic I did issue Section 22 orders to individuals who HPPH were concerned about as we received information that they were not adhering to our direction,” said Klassen. “I’ve now become deeply concerned (because) our case and contact investigators are hearing increasingly that there are more people and groups of people not adhering to our direction, so this class order is a tool for us to use to stop further transmission of COVID.”

Klassen said education and working with people were her first choice to help people do the right thing.

“Our numbers are going in the wrong direction and I’m very concerned about the potential to overwhelm our local health care system so I’m now using this additional tool of a legal measure,” she said.

The order allows for HPPH to direct someone to be tested if needed.

Klassen said it has not been a common occurrence for people to not get tested but she did say if people have concerns about the test an alternative is to self-isolate as directed by Public Health based on symptoms and risk factors.

“I’m asking everybody to think beyond themselves,” she said. “Think about the common good because we know that most people will recover, however we also know that some people will get very ill and some people will unfortunately and very sadly, pass away.”

Examples of non-adherence to HPPH recommendations are not isolated to any one community.

“There is more COVID fatigue – there are people for whom this has just been a long haul and they are losing their energy and ability to adhere and I’m urging them – there is an end in sight,” said Klassen.

“Vaccines are coming. We all need to get out of orange and back to green as quickly as we can.”

She acknowledged people have financial concerns and that self-isolating can take a big financial hit on people.

“There can be those kinds of logistical challenges and HPPH staff will work with them to link them to supports to help them isolate safely,” she said.

“The common cold does not cause 17 hospitalizations and 17 deaths in one year in Huron-Perth, much less in eight months with all the public health measures that have been put in place.”

– Dr. Miriam Klassen, Huron-Perth medical officer of health

Klassen said the abundance of misinformation being passed around is causing problems.

“One that I’m hearing increasingly is that this is just like a common cold – this is not a severe illness,” she said. “I just want to be very clear and say – that’s wrong. The common cold does not cause 17 hospitalizations and 17 deaths in one year in Huron-Perth, much less in eight months with all the public health measures that have been put in place.”

Another concern Klassen raised was the denial of science showing the benefit of wearing masks.

“Masks aren’t 100 per cent but I think we’ve been clear about how they are helpful as source protection as an additional layer,” she said.

According to Klassen, the problem of finding a way for people to engage credible information sources is not local, it’s a global issue.

“There are people far smarter than I working on how to engage the public in understanding what are credible sources of information and looking to experts for answers,” she said.

Klassen said if things don’t improve she will recommend the region be moved to the red alert level.

“Whether I do or not the chief medical officer of health (for the province) is going to look at the data and make that recommendation anyway to cabinet but certainly from my perspective if we don’t turn this around then – I’m very aware of the impact on businesses and organizations that have been struggling to stay open,” she said.

“I’m also aware that if this pandemic continues unchecked that will eventually impact the economy and businesses and their ability to stay open as well.”

Non-essential travel or visits from high-risk areas are discouraged by Klassen.

“Remember that each of those 17 deaths in Huron-Perth is somebody’s beloved family member, friend, neighbour,” said Klassen.

“This has already taken a real toll on our community and I’m urging everyone to participate in doing their part to turn this around as quickly as possible and decrease the number of additional cases, hospitalizations and deaths.”

Colin Burrowes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Listowel Banner. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.