SUDBURY -- Effective Jan. 21 at 12:01 a.m., snowmobile trails in the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit coverage area must close.

The health unit said in a news release Monday all Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs trails and trails utilizing Crown Land trails have to stay closed until the province lifts the emergency stay-at-home order.

"This closure is done under the medical officer of health’s ability to increase restrictions within their district," the release said.

“We have been told to stay home and we need to do this," Dr. Jim Chirico, medical officer of health, said in the release. "I have received many complaints about people travelling from other districts to use the local snowmobile trails, thus putting our district at risk of COVID-19."

Stay-At-Home-Order provisions under the Emergency Management and Civil Protections Act give the medical officer of health the authorization to close the trails "to decrease or eliminate the risk to community health presented by COVID -19."

Chirico said members of snowmobile clubs have been directed to not travel outside their health unit areas to access trails, but too many people are ignoring that direction.

“We are also seeing groups of snowmobilers congregating on trails, in parking lots and other locations not maintaining a two-metre distance and exceeding the gathering limits,” he said.

With COVID cases rising across Ontario, Chirico said local hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed by COVID patients.

"The provincial projections do not look good," he said. "Our local hospitals have very little surge capacity and limited resources which must be protected for the health and safety of our community. We must take extra precautions to keep our district safe. However, the key is we must all work together.”

Outdoor physical activity, such as walking, running, playing outside and biking are important for physical and mental health and still recommended by the health unit. However, all activities outside the house need to be done with extreme caution, following the COVID-19 public health measures, and should be done close to home.

If you think you may have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has it, first self-isolate and then use Ontario's Self-Assessment Tool to see if you need to seek further care. I

If you need further assistance call your health care provider or the Health Unit at 1-800-563-2808. If you have severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, you should call 911 and mention your symptoms.

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