The Chambers of Commerce in Bracebridge, Huntsville, Gravenhurst and Muskoka Lakes met with our Health Unit’s top Doctor Charles Gardner and our MPP Norm Miller to talk about their concerns with how the COVID-19 vaccine has been rolled out locally.

The meeting happened virtually on Friday. According to a joint press release from the Chambers, it was facilitated by Miller.

“The Chambers brought forward recommendations and offered support for a faster vaccine rollout, requested consistent messaging for businesses and assurances that a business voice will be included in vaccination plans,” the release reads. “Concerns were raised about front-line workers, specifically in close proximity situations, as well as concerns about staff shortages being exacerbated by people afraid to work when the seasonal population swells in late spring and summer.”

Norah Fountain was representing the Muskoka Lakes Chamber and said to Dr. Gardner that they will continue to listen to what the Health Unit is recommending. “We need assurances that the concerns of our businesses are also being heard,” she added.

“With the April spring break soon upon us we are expecting an early swell of population,” Fountain continued. “While business owners are working hard to keep staff safe, some are experiencing increased staff shortages, an already exasperated issue. Getting our frontline workers of all ages vaccinated sooner would be a great help.”

David Kitchen with the Field of Greens Port Carling was also apart of the virtual meeting. He called for a “more considered and measured” approach towards how the novel coronavirus is affecting businesses. “As a northern small business, under strain and risk, recruiting and hiring and transporting staff is very challenging at the best of times,” he is quoted as saying. “We need to define where essential front-line workers fit in terms of an expedited accelerated vaccination process.”

Dr. Gardner told the Chamber representatives that he’s aware of the differences between Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka. He said getting the vaccine into the arms of residents is his “top priority” and noted how the vaccine is the key to returning to “normal living.” He said that next week they’re expecting to have 7,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine be delivered. vaccine. “Right now, we’re giving in the range of 7000 doses a week and when we get to the height of it, we anticipate it will be something like 7000 doses a day,” he said, looking toward to the future.

“If holes exist, that if filled could accelerate rollout as supplies arrive, then the (Ontario Chamber of Commerce) will find organizations to help,” Sandy Lockhart with the Gravenhurst Chamber said. “Vaccination is the biggest priority for our membership. On a more local level, we want to help. I would even do a midnight shift assessment, and I know that I can gather community volunteers and support.”

Dr. Gardner finished by acknowledging that it’s “tense” right now. “The control measures that we promote and require are very effective and helpful, and people have it within their ability to abide by them,” he said. “The use of distancing and masking, hand hygiene is critical, the monitoring that people need to do before they go to work and self-exclusion. All of that is important and helpful.”