Norfolk’s COVID costs $2 million and counting

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Norfolk County has been served with a number of unpleasant budgetary surprises in recent months.

Now the COVID-19 pandemic has been added to the heap. The bearer of bad news this time was CAO Jason Burgess.

“At the end of the day, we’re into a new normal,” he told Norfolk council. “The new normal is probably going to put a hit north of $2 million in our budget that we didn’t count on. Can it be more than $2 million? Yes.”

The biggest expense since the pandemic emergency was declared in March involves personal protective equipment – face masks, disposable gowns, latex gloves, face shields and the like. These are required for paramedics, firefighters and employees of Norview Lodge and the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.

The cost to date in this area due to COVID-19 totals $854,000. Burgess says increased reliance on personal protective equipment (PPE) could represent an ongoing expense, one Norfolk hasn’t budgeted for specifically in the past.


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“We’ve got kind of a double whammy,” he said. “We had bought PPE in prior years. We had high levels of inventory. We didn’t put in a budgetary line item for normal PPE usage. We eventually didn’t budget for PPE because we were using prior inventory.

“So, everything we’re buying is eventually a negative budget variance. It’s an approach we’ll have to change. We need to budget for our actual expenditures, whether we’re pulling it from inventory or not.”

Another significant unbudgeted expense involves the temporary infirmary at the Port Dover and Area Arena. This was set up to create additional health-care capacity in case Norfolk General Hospital in Simcoe is overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.

The temporary hospital cost $182,000 to establish. The cost to maintain the facility is $20,000 a month, treasury staff said in a report.

Norfolk and Haldimand are also spending more to enforce public health orders issued by Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, Norfolk and Haldimand’s medical officer of health.

Norfolk’s bylaw enforcement team has been increased to 10 from five. Instead of logging 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, bylaw enforcement is on call seven days a week, 10 hours a day.

Under normal circumstances, Norfolk’s bylaw officers cost $41,000 a month. Since the pandemic alert, this has risen to $86,000 a month.

Enhanced patrols are primarily concerned with enforcing social-distancing orders, ensuring non-essential businesses remain closed, and steering visitors away from popular gathering places, mostly in lakeshore areas.


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The health unit has also set up a 10-member Migrant Farm Compliance Team to ensure farm isolation and quarantine plans are respected. The cost here is $72,000 a month.

As a partner with Norfolk in the area of health and social services, Haldimand County will pick up 40 per cent of the cost for certain goods and services.

Other new expenses include $7,000 a month to rent vehicles so Norfolk workers can travel in isolation. The Ride Norfolk fare waiver is worth $3,000 a month. The county has forgone nearly $57,000 to date in penalties on late tax payments.

Conversely, the county is saving money by withdrawing public washrooms in busy tourist towns such as Port Dover.

These have been closed to discourage visitors from coming to Norfolk. As well, public washrooms are a potential vector for the spread of COVID-19.

Some companies that require their employees to travel have complained about this. In reply, the county says the provision of washrooms is not a municipal responsibility. Rather, it is up to employers to ensure staff is accommodated in this respect wherever their work takes them.

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