A community of communities
By Chad Ingram
A letter issued by the physicians of the Haliburton Highlands about a week and a half ago has stirred up some contention, some feuding on social media and even in person, from what I understand, but it's important for everyone to remember that letter was issued with the preservation of everyone's health in mind.
That letter asked seasonal residents to reconsider any plans to come to their seasonal residences at this time, citing the county's limited medical resources. While the county is home to two hospitals, those hospitals are extremely small. The Minden site is essentially an emergency room attached to a long-term care home – there are no in-patient beds – and the Haliburton Village facility is much the same, albeit with 15 beds. Neither site has an ICU, the closest one an hour's drive away.
Again, I realize some see the message as divisive. Some perceive that the situation is pitting year-round residents against seasonal ones, essentially telling the latter group they are unwelcome in a community to which they are vitally important.
Full disclosure: I am a seasonal-turned-year-round resident of Haliburton County. I began my relationship with the county as a cottager, and have lived here year-round for the past 12 years. My parents, my sister and her family remain traditional seasonal residents. So, if there are two camps – but I don't believe there are, really – then I feel I essentially have a foot in each.
The point is I understand the urge to come and self-isolate at the cottage. If I weren’t in the county already, I'd probably have the same urge. I also understand the sadness and disappointment that would come with the thought of losing some or all of the cottaging season. Certainly there are already seasonal residents who've come to the community early, there will be more who do, and if those people go directly to their places, fully stocked with supplies for a few months, then they are arguably doing little harm. Some would argue differently.
Yes, it's strange that at a time of year when a community reliant on a seasonal summer economy is normally rolling out its carpets for its seasonal residents, those residents are being asked to stay away. Yes, it's true that in many ways they prop the community up, and yes it's true that waterfront property taxes constitute the vast majority of the tax base in the county. However, none of those things make the statements in the letter from the community's doctors any less true. Ultimately, unless the government makes it illegal for seasonal residents to visit their seasonal properties – which is happening in some countries – it will be up to those residents to make what they feel is the best decision based on everything they've read and seen about the spread of COVID-19.
As food bank demand increases with the layoffs of county residents amid the outbreak, last week, the county's lake associations began donating thousands of dollars to local food banks. That concept drew some snark – “Aren't these the same group of people you have told to stay home?” one reader wrote on the Times Facebook page. And some are going to share that opinion.
However, another wrote: “We should give a shout out to our seasonal neighbours for their donations. We are a community of communities working all together to help each other.”
I firmly believe that to be true.