SUDBURY -- Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger has questions and he's looking to Ontario Premier Doug Ford for answers.

"I really want to know what Premier Ford is going to do to protect the people in Greater Sudbury and the people of northeastern Ontario," Bigger told CTV News over Zoom. "Presumably we'll continue to do our part, but potentially we get out of lockdown and we move back to green, but there's gotta be a way to protect the citizens of northern Ontario and our community."

Bigger's comments come as the northeast marked a grim milestone: 1,000 cases since the start of the outbreak last March. 

The mayor said residents here should not be put in harm's way because those in COVID hot zones refuse to stay home and head north.

"I think it's up to the province to figure out what the solutions are, we need some sort of action, we need some sort of bubble for northeastern Ontario," said Bigger. "We've been following the rules, we've proven that we can keep our numbers low. What throws a wrench in our plans is those travelling outside of communities."

Several moves have been made recently in hopes of deterring people from travelling, including closing of snowmobile trails in the North Bay area by their medical officer of health.

"If I sound concerned, it's because I haven't seen a single vaccine in the City of Sudbury and so not one healthcare worker, no residents, no one working in long-term care -- even in Amberwood, where we've seen four deaths in the last seven days -- there are no vaccines."

The milestone of 1,000 COVID cases has certainly been helped by a recent uptick or spike following the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Both the Greater Sudbury Police Service and Greater Sudbury reported a number of large gatherings they were called to respond to after Dec. 26.

One retired healthcare professional, Dr. Peter Zalan, agrees with the mayor's sentiments. He recently wrote an open letter to the premier asking for tougher measures to be put in place.

Lockdown should have started sooner

"In December, we had many days where we had zero cases in the hospital and zero cases in the intensive care unit and just a few active cases each day and no deaths since the beginning of April," said Zalan.

The province should have been locked down sooner than Dec. 26, Zalan wrote, since every single day matters when it comes to a pandemic.

"I think for the most part, folks in the north have done the right things, socially distanced, washed their hands, they're wearing masks when I go into the supermarket," he said. "Obviously with what happened after Christmas and what happened after Thanksgiving, people are travelling to visit their family and friends in southern Ontario, they're going to indoor parties, especially young people."

In the meantime, Bigger is pleading with residents to continue to be vigilant until the numbers head in the other direction.

Bigger said he'd like to see legislation to help the police and bylaw officers better protect residents from community spread.

He said his heart goes out to those who have been affected at Amberwood Suites, including those who have lost loved ones in the last week.

"We have to continue what we've been doing, doing it better, staying within our communities and keeping our COVID numbers low," he said. "The situation at Amberwood is very unfortunate and everyone who's involved finds it hard to believe how quickly this virus spreads and the impact that it can have on a community and on people."