UPDATE: No victory for Winners lineup in Chatham

A lineup gathered outside of the Winners store in Chatham. May 27, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Cortney Jordan-Crosby via Facebook)

**UPDATE: Another photo from a different angle of the same line at Winners was submitted to Blackburn News Friday morning and has been added to the story below**

A long lineup outside of the Winners store in Chatham isn’t sitting well with the local Medical Officer of Health.

Dr. David Colby said health unit officials will be having a chat with management about physical distancing after photos of customers in line, many of them not two metres apart, waiting to get into Winners started circulating on social media. However, he admitted during a weekly media briefing done by conference call on Thursday that he doesn’t think the store has much control or responsibility over what customers do outside, it can only control COVID-19 safety protocols inside the store.

“If this kind of thing repeats then we’ll have to re-think some of our opening strategies enforcement maneuvers. I’m really disappointed to see that because, by and large, people have been very compliant. They’ve done what we’ve asked and that’s another reason why our numbers reflect that because we have a large buy-in from people,” Colby said.

Colby said it’s not even technically mandatory by law to have a security person at stores to control the crowds outside the store. The doctor added it’s a double-edged sword because there is a provincial mandate limiting the number of people inside a store but nothing mandatory to control the outside when high demand creates a lineup.

Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire said a health inspector or a bylaw officer will drop by the store on Thursday to remind management of the safety protocols so it can operate in a safe manner. Shropshire added the enforcement tip line is complaint-driven and there aren’t enough bylaw enforcement officers in Chatham-Kent to be everywhere and keep an eye on everyone.

Dr. Colby said it’s actions like the ones seen at Winners that prompt medical officials to re-think the opening of the economy. Ontario continues to see hundreds of new COVID-19 cases reported each day.

Colby also admitted he can’t prohibit outsiders from COVID-19 hot spots, such as Toronto, from coming to Chatham-Kent because its low number of cases are appealing even though people from surrounding jurisdictions pose a danger by spreading the virus.

“As much as it’s a tantalizing notion to see Fortress Chatham-Kent, I don’t see checkpoints on the 401 at our borders,” Colby mused.

Colby previously said he would keep an eye on outsiders like Torontonians coming to the area but he wasn’t too worried about it.

He once again emphasized that a regional approach in low case areas to open stores faster won’t work because it creates confusion from area to area and Windsor-Essex, which is a hot spot for the virus, is just down the road.

Dr. Colby also said he doesn’t know what the COVID-19 outlook for the fall will be because it’s too difficult to predict right now.

He added this year’s flu season was a lot milder because of COVID-19. Chatham-Kent Health Alliance CEO Lori Marshall added her hospitals saw fewer flu cases this year compared to last year because of the coronavirus.

Colby is still not sure if victims can get COVID-19 twice but added, based on other coronaviruses, usually immunity lasts for months after a person gets infected and builds a robust immune response.