Opinion split in North Bay on speeding up province’s reopening plan

Officials at the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit are siding with Dr. Peter Juni, Ontario's Science Advisory Table's scientific director, who opposes an early reopening in the province. (Eric Taschner/CTV News)

Officials at the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit are siding with Dr. Peter Juni, Ontario's Science Advisory Table's scientific director, who opposes an early reopening in the province.

"I feel it is important to retain that 21-day period in between moving between steps so that we can asses the situation," said Dr. Carol Zimbalatti, the health unit’s public health physician

Juni said Thursday the province is "absolutely not ready" to move into the next step of the reopening plan. He cited the threat of the highly infectious Delta variant as the main reason.

Health officials said they needs to see 75 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated before moving to the next step. They are calling for patience and for the government not to rush the reopening plan.

As of this week, half of all adults are fully vaccinated in the North Bay Parry Sound District, and numbers are rising among youth.

"Fifty-five per cent of our youth 12-17 years of age have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (and) 48 per cent have received both doses," said Andrea McLellan, director of the health unit’s COVID-19 immunization strategy.

But business leaders like Peter Chirico, president and CEO of the North Bay and District Chamber Of Commerce, said businesses have weathered the storm long enough and that it's time to reopen further.

"When we look at the numbers for the Stage 3 reopening, we're there,” said Chirico. “Our businesses -- especially our hospitality industry -- has demonstrated that they can open safely."

The Ford government's current timeline is for Ontario to remain in Stage 2 until July 21.