SARNIA, ONT. -- Lambton County is the last region in Southwestern Ontario registered in the green or ‘prevent’ category, according to the province’s COVID-19 map. But officials there are concerned that may send the wrong message.

“I think we should be careful before we rush into saying that there is a difference,” says Medical Officer of Health for Lambton County Dr. Sudit Ranade.

“So even in the first wave you would see that there were times when people were saying, ‘Why are there so many cases in Lambton County. Like, you guys are worse than everyone in your neighbourhood.’ And while I don’t think it was necessarily true then, it isn’t necessarily true now."

Lambton County hasn’t registered a COVID-19-related death since April, when several outbreaks at long-term care homes led to an early spike in cases.

Since that time, according to County Warden Bill Weber, the community has bought into protocols and are doing their part.

“I think a lot goes to our community, that people are trying very hard, the people are following the rules as much as possible. It may not last, but right now we’re doing really well,” says Weber.

Meanwhile, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who can see the Michigan side of the St. Clair River from his office, says being so close to an area that has seen a tremendous rise in cases is a motivator for people on the Ontario side.

“Seeing what we’re seeing in the U.S. as a border city, it’s sort of ingrained in our minds. We don’t want that. We don’t want to see people lying in hallways, we don’t want to see what happens. It’s puzzling, but again, it can change. You could be doing an interview with me in two weeks and I’ll be talking totally different.”

It’s the unknown of the how and why the virus spreads that keeps any officials in Lambton County from celebrating.

“I’m not looking at the numbers to say to everyone, ‘Hey everyone it’s OK here, but if you cross the street into London or Chatham it’s not OK there.’ I think the point is, it’s not OK,” says Ranade.

“So we still need to keep doing what we’re doing and everybody needs to do this in a sustainable and practical way as possible. Recognizing there will probably be variations in different places, and there may not have an answer behind any of them, or reason for them.”

Knowing the pendulum can swing very quickly as it did at the start of the pandemic, Bradley tempers his positive feelings with a dose of pragmatism.

"It’s just a simple twist of fate. Whether you get COVID, whether the community has a growth in COVID,” says Bradley, "that to me is, I can’t define it and I don’t think anyone here should be taking credit for it. Except I’m pleased that we seem to be in good position today.”