'It's just too hard to predict what's going to happen' Muskoka businesses prep for tourism season

The Ontario government pulled the emergency brake putting the province in a shutdown effective Saturday after surging COVID cases - a move that sent a shockwave through the business community in Muskoka.

Retailers say mixed messages from the province make matters worse. "We constantly hearing the words lockdown and shutdown, and yet the framework has changed and retailers, like myself, are open at 25 per cent capacity," says Judy Terry, Muskoka Bay Clothing.

While plans are underway for the tourism season, the president of Muskoka Steamships says one of the region's most iconic tourist attractions, the Segwun, will stay parked. "It's just too hard to predict what's going to happen this summer with the restrictions and with occupancy and distancing required," John Miller says. "The Segwun just doesn't become viable once we reduce her passenger counts."

The larger Wenonah is set to sail in July if all goes to plan and the number of people vaccinated continues to grow.

Norah Fountain, executive director of Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce, says she wants to see frontline workers go to the front of the vaccination line to ensure businesses can operate safely this summer.

"Our businesses are doing everything it takes. All the precautions necessary, but we need to go further and be more surgical, strategic. We need to vaccinate people that are going to be dealing with people. I can work remotely. They can't," Fountain says.

The IDA Pharmacy in Gravenhurst and the Shoppers Drug Mart on King Willam Street in Huntsville were slated to begin offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to residents 55 and older, but so far, they haven't received any doses.

Residents interested in getting immunized can book an appointment online.