Sudbury·Audio

Timmins declares state of emergency as COVID-19 case numbers surge

Timmins Mayor George Pirie has declared a state of emergency for the northeastern Ontario city because of the rapid and unchecked spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

Mayor George Pirie says hundreds of vaccination clinic spaces are empty in northeastern Ontario city

The City of Timmins is under a state of emergency. Mayor George Pirie says he wants the Ontario government to recognize Timmins as a provincial “hotspot” to ensure that vaccines and supplies are readily available for the community, to enhance capacity for testing, and obtain support for a community isolation centre. (Pierre-Mathieu Tremblay/Radio-Canada)

Timmins Mayor George Pirie has declared a state of emergency for the northeastern Ontario city because of the rapid and unchecked spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

"I want to send a very clear and strong message that COVID-19 is a threat to residents in the city of Timmins," Pirie told a news conference Monday.

"We are seeing a dramatic rise in cases in our region as we continue to battle COVID-19. We have declared a state of emergency to insure that we can act fast to further protect our residents and local businesses."

There are 250 active cases in the Porcupine catchment area. The Timmins and District Hospital reported 10 COVID-19-positive patients averaging age 42.

We are asking residents to put their arms forward. There are hundreds of spaces going empty.- George Pirie, mayor of Timmins, Ont.

The hospital in the city, which has a population of about 41,000, also said patients on ventilators are being transported from its facility, as emergency medical services are overextended and their emergency response is threatened.

"Probably almost a doubling of our emerg visits since a year ago. Sicker people and definitely whole families coming in sick," said Dr. Doug Arnold, the hospital's assistant chief of staff.  

"There's definitely been a change in the last few months."

Arnold says he and other hospital staff are already worn out after a year treating COVID patients, but he still has "great faith" in them. 

"Working on the frontlines, it is becoming very tiring. They are seeing similar cases, over and over and over again," he said.

The Porcupine Health Unit reported workplace transmission of COVID-19 remains an ongoing source of exposure.

Small businesses say they fear business failure if they're unable to reopen once Ontario's stay-at-home order is lifted, currently targeted for early June.

Timmins asked to be deemed a hot spot

The health unit is taking steps to encourage eligible individuals, those 12 and over, to book a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination appointment.

The health unit is asking the government to recognize Timmins as a provincial hot spot to ensure vaccines and supplies are readily available for the community, to enhance capacity for testing, and get support for a community isolation centre.

Pirie encourage people to get vaccinated, as hundreds of spots at clinics are empty.

"We are asking residents to put their arms forward. There are hundreds of spaces going empty."

He also said it's urgent for residents to adhere to public health measures.

"Each community member must stay home immediately if they have any symptoms — even mild — and call to get tested; wear a mask properly, distance from anyone you do not live with, and treat every interaction in the community as a potential exposure," the mayor said.

"Vaccinations will get us there, but we need time for immunity, so these actions remain critical."

Listen to Mayor George Pirie in conversation with Up North host Jonathan Pinto.

While COVID-19 cases appearing to be trending down in many parts of the province, that isn't the case in at least one part of Northern Ontario. The Porcupine Health Unit currently has 250 active cases, with 21 of those in Timmins alone. For perspective, the next highest number of active cases is in Sudbury Manitoulin, which has 60. At the Timmins and District Hospital, the number of COVID-19 admissions doubled in in 24 hours, from five to 10. Visitor restrictions are now in place at that hospital. At the request of the hospital, the health unit and EMS, the mayor of Timmins declared a state of emergency this afternoon. Here's his conversation with Up North host Jonathan Pinto. 10:21

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