Elgin County today reaffirmed its commitment to the Province of Ontario’s Stay-at-Home Order, and unless Premier Doug Ford says otherwise on Thursday, the municipality has issued a clear warning: stay home, stay safe, this Victoria Day Weekend.

“I understand as temperatures rise, how tempting it might be to take a trip to the beach this weekend,” said Elgin County Warden Tom Marks, “however we must all refrain from activities that put us in close contact with those outside of our own households.

“I encourage residents to find safe ways to relax and spend time outdoors this weekend,” added Marks. “Stay home and stay safe.”

Queen’s Park announced the stay-at-home order on May 13, 2021. Emergency measures included the closure – until at least June 2, 2021 – of all Elgin County beaches, marinas, golf courses, soccer fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, baseball diamonds and skate parks.

Parking lots, washrooms and piers are also closed at municipally owned beaches. Further, residents are prohibited from gathering in large groups.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday that a new plan to reopen the province will be released soon. Premier Ford is expected to make an announcement on Thursday.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams has cautioned against lifting restrictions before the daily COVID-19 case count is “well below 1,000.”

Provincial health officials recorded 1,588 new cases today, down from 1,616 on Tuesday and 2,170 on Monday.

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has also called for voluntarily compliance with the Stay-at-Home Order.

“OPP officers will enforce the Stay-at-Home Order, under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMPCA), and the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) by focusing on non-compliance in businesses and restaurants, complaints from the public and unlawful public gatherings,” according to an OPP statement. Offenders may be ticketed and face fines of up to $750. “Officers who believe an individual may be participating in a gathering that is prohibited may require the individual to provide information to determine whether or not they are in compliance.”

Carol Gates, proprietor at GTs On The Beach, is keeping Port Stanley’s popular Main Beach bar and grill closed throughout the long weekend.

“I really want to get off this roller coaster ride,” said Gates. “We can only envision two scenarios. First scenario is the town becomes gridlock and my staff can’t get in or out. God forbid if there was an actual emergency that required Emergency Medical Services (EMS). In scenario two, the OPP shut the whole town down early. Then there’s no business, so what’s the point? Scenario one is much more likely, but both are terrible.”

Gates reflected back on a Victoria Day Monday 10 years ago when gridlock confined tourists and visitors to their cars for four straight hours. “Homeowners were letting people use their washrooms and bringing out water for the kids.

“It’s going to be scary this weekend,” she added.