Provincial order shuts down conference in Florence


It was a potential public health problem Dawn-Euphemia didn’t seem to have the power to stop.
But a conference of 150 people at the Dawn-Euphemia Community Centre in Florence was put on hold when Ontario’s premier declared a state of emergency and banned all large gatherings.
Monday, just hours before Premier Doug Ford made the declaration to implement tough measures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, Dawn-Euphemia Clerk Donna Clermont told councillors the community centre was booked for the week and about 150 people were expected to attend the conference including people from the US.
The group rents the facility each year and made the arrangements long before the province recommended people not gather in groups larger than 50 people.
Clermont says she spoke with the organizer twice about the recommendations from the province and Lambton Public Health. Clermont told the organizers there should be a screening process so that no one who had symptoms or had travelled to the COVID-19 affected areas came into the hall. But she didn’t believe they were following public health’s direction.
“The people did not want to cancel and there was no order (from the province) just a recommendation. We don’t have the legal authority to close it down.”
That worried Councillor Mark McGuire. “In a worst case scenario, 10 people come away from there infected.”
Clermont did tell The Independent the township considered declaring a local state of emergency – as Chatham-Kent had done Friday – but because “everything else was under control” they decided against that move.
By Tuesday at 8:30 am, the province solved the problem. Premier Ford declared a state of emergency which included an order of any gatherings of over 50 people had to be shut down. Clermont says staff told the organizers the conference would not be allowed to continue.