Premier calls Pelham, Ont. situation ‘terrible,’ tells those with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home

Premier Doug Ford compared walking around with symptoms of COVID-19 to carrying a “loaded gun” and called on Ontarians exhibiting signs of the virus to exercise common sense and stay home.

His comments came during a media update Saturday after being asked about the situation in Pelham, Ont., where councillor Ron Kore tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a council meeting in March.

Archival video of that meeting shows the councillor sniffling and wiping his nose, causing concern for staff about possible exposure to the virus, according to the town’s mayor.

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Kore also owns a Sobeys franchise. Town officials told CBC News they’ve heard from shoppers and employees who say the councillor continued to work while appearing sick.

The store was closed for a deep cleaning Thursday. Officials with public health, Sobeys and Ontario’s Ministry of Labour are continuing to investigate.

Regional councillor Diana Huson said Friday that public health will allow workers at the store who are worried about possible exposure to be tested for the virus.

Mike Ciolfi, a councillor who sat about eight feet away from Kore during the March 23 council meeting died on April 13 after testing positive for COVID-19, as first reported by The Voice of Pelham newspaper.

Ciolfi’s cause of death has not been publicly released.

‘Another side to the story’

While it can’t be known who got what from whom, whether the virus was even spread at the meeting, or if Kore simply had a cold at that time, the situation has shaken the community.

When reached by phone Kore said there is “another side to the story” but declined to say more.

Ford said his heart goes out to the Ciolfi family.

“It’s terrible what happened,” he said. “People make mistakes but folks, please, we’ve come so far.”

Niagara Regional Police had launched a “COVID-related” investigation over community concerns in Pelham on Thursday, but on Friday said they’d determined a “criminal inquiry is not an appropriate course of action.”

“We will continue to support Public Health,” wrote Const. Phil Gavin in an email to CBC. “Should their review require further input or assistance from us we will provide that.”

The mayor of Pelham, Ont. called for all employees at the Sobeys in Fonthill to be tested for COVID-19 following the news its owner has the virus. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

On Saturday the premier pointed to a group of protesters who were outside Queen’s Park, saying it’s important for people in the province to keep pulling together and continue to physically distance in order to end the pandemic.

When asked what regular employees can do to protect themselves from being exposed to COVID-19 by a boss, councillor or superior who appears to have the virus, Ford said those with symptoms need to be responsible and stay home.

“Call your public health and if you really want to shame them call the local media,” said the premier. “It’s just being irresponsible. If you have symptoms it’s like walking around with a loaded gun in your hand.”

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