Norfolk County is following provincial guidance on COVID-19 in its response to the possibility of a substantial gathering of visitors in Port Dover Nov. 13.
That is the date of the next Friday the 13th. If the weather is pleasant, this could translate into a noticeable uptick in motorcycle traffic and pedestrian visitors who usually come to Norfolk for Friday the 13th motorcycle rallies.
“I received quite a bit of correspondence from people who do not want any permits,” Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman told Norfolk council on Oct. 13.
“It’s better not to have any.”
Norfolk council grappled with the question at its regular meeting on Sept. 22.
Friday the 13th rallies pose a challenge because they are spontaneous and dictated by the calendar. By the same token, the rallies can get so large that the municipality worries about allegations of negligence and liability if its posture is entirely passive.
Council settled on a game plan on Tuesday, and that means no special vending permits, no Friday the 13th hawkers and pedlars, no special occasion permits, and no county declaration of Nov. 13 as an event of municipal significance.
It will be business-as-usual in Port Dover Nov. 13 for established retailers, licensed establishments and restaurants. In a report to council, clerk Andy Grozelle said the municipality can do nothing to stop pop-up vendors from renting vacant storefronts for the day.
Events like Friday the 13th are a concern to medical authorities because they have the potential to serve as a super-spreader event for COVID-19. Crowded conditions downtown could facilitate the spread of the pathogen, sending people home to numerous communities in southern Ontario and elsewhere as carriers of the virus.
Several days before the Ontario government declared a pandemic state-of-emergency in March, some were critical of the relatively large turnout in Port Dover on Friday, March 13, in light of emerging reports of the rapidly-spreading pandemic.
Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, Norfolk and Haldimand’s medical officer of health, recently discouraged the public from coming to Port Dover Nov. 13 for this reason. At the Oct. 13 meeting, Norfolk council agreed on a messaging campaign to this effect.
In recent weeks, Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp has been encouraged to take extraordinary measures to ensure that crowds don’t pile into Port Dover Nov. 13.
Chopp said municipal politicians have limited authority to deny access to specific communities and cannot barricade roads on a wholesale basis. As well, Chopp said Norfolk council does not have the authority to tell the OPP how to discharge its responsibilities.