Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis told media on Wednesday that a gradual decrease in the seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases, combined with the uneven spread of infections in the region, led him to recommend against imposing stronger lockdowns like those in Ottawa, Toronto, Peel and York. Those measures would include bans on indoor food and drink service, and the closure of indoor gyms and fitness areas.
Instead, Dr. Roumeliotis advised the government to introduce some restrictions on capacity for businesses, including a 100-person cap on restaurants, and 50-person limits for gyms and banquet halls. Class and table sizes would also be reduced under this recommendation, which was implemented in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa prior to the modified Stage 2 lockdown.
No local changes have yet been confirmed, and would need to be approved by cabinet later this week. If the capacity restrictions were not introduced by the government, Dr. Roumeliotis said he would issue them himself under Section 22 of the Health and Protection Promotion Act.
He said the new measures would discourage larger gatherings without the need for business closures. “We want to decrease the number of people at one place at one time, that’s really what we want to do,” he said. “I’m very optimistic, I’m pretty sure that the numbers, trends and the arguments I’ve made will sway that we will not go into stage 2.”
The prospect of the region moving into modified stage 2 had grown more realistic last week after a substantial rise in cases. Many of those came from an outbreak at the Prescott and Russell Residence, which resulted in the death of a resident on the weekend.
Another four staff members tested positive to COVID at the residence on Wednesday, bringing the total case numbers to 52. Fifteen of the 31 residents who tested positive had since seen their cases resolved, as well as seven of the 21 staff members. The Canadian Red Cross was at the residence finalising a plan to assist with a staff shortage. Another outbreak at Foyer St-Jacques Nursing Home in Embrun, in which one resident and one staff member tested positive, was declared over on Wednesday.
Dr. Roumeliotis said he would speak with chambers of commerce in the Prescott-Russell area in the coming days to explain the plan. Greater emphasis would also need to be placed on screening of staff at restaurants and other establishments, he said.
“What we are seeing is staff going to work, not being screened and turning up positive,” he said. “That’s something that could be very much avoided… if we all do our part, we can re-evaluate this over the next couple of weeks and hopefully as the numbers go down we’ll be able to have said we’ve beaten this wave.”
The region recorded 10 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Across the EOHU catchment area, 150 cases were active, of which 113 were reported in the Prescott-Russell region. The local active cases included;
- 50 in Hawkesbury;
- 16 in Russell;
- 15 in Clarence-Rockland;
- 11 in Alfred and Plantagenet;
- 10 in The Nation;
- 7 in Champlain;
- 3 in Casselman, and;
- 1 in East Hawkesbury.
The EOHU area marked its 14th death from the virus on Tuesday, at The Palace long-term care home in Alexandria. Outbreaks were also ongoing at two Cornwall facilities – Sandfield Place Retirement Home, and St-Joseph’s Continuing Care Centre.