Ontario health officials urge residents not to flock to cottage country amid pandemic

Wendel Clark's Muskoka cottage is shown in this photo posted to AirBnB. Clark will rent the cottage out this summer with all proceeds going to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

Ontario’s top doctor is urging people not to flock to their cottages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a news conference at Queen’s Park on Tuesday, Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said cottagers are putting themselves at risk and also putting unnecessary pressure on the residents who live in that community year-round.

“People who have left to go up to northern areas to cottages… while that may seem to be an opportunistic thing to do, you have to understand that puts an unprecedented load on those communities,” Williams said.

“If you stay up there, those smaller communities are seasonal. They have food supplies at their grocery stores… set up for seasonal activity. They do not have a lot of people … to look after. Therefore, when you go up there, you compromise the supply for the local residents.”

Williams added that people may not realize the burden they are placing on those communities by spending extended periods of time at their cottages.

He added that medical facilities in smaller seasonal communities are not set up to handle an increased load of patients.

“If you are going up for an extended period of time, you don’t have access to your regular family physician or your specialists if you have complicated health conditions. And you don’t have the same intensity of secondary, tertiary, and quaternary care services that you have in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area,” Williams noted.

Ontario reported 260 additional cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the provincial total to 1,966 cases including deaths and recoveries.

To date, there are 291 patients in hospital, including 125 in intensive care and 82 on ventilators.

“By going up there, you may be putting yourself at risk and putting greater pressure on the local community that they are not ready to deal with especially in the next four to six weeks… I would ask you to think seriously about that,” he said.

Williams said that people who need to check on their cottages for “insurance purposes” should not spend a great deal of time at that property.

“I’d say if you are going just go overnight, preferably don’t go at all,” he added.