The Ontario government announced on Friday that the Eastern Ontario Health Unit would be placed in the yellow zone from 12:01 a.m. on Saturday. The category, which was one higher than the base “green” zone, was for areas with a weekly incidence rate of between 10 and 39.9 cases per 100,000 people and emphasised targeted enforcement, fines and education to prevent further COVID transmission.
Restrictions under the new category were similar to those already implemented in the EOHU area under a Section 22 order issued late last month. Restaurants and bars must close at midnight, with liquor sold or served only between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m., while a maximum of six people would be allowed to sit together. Contact information would need to be sourced from all seated patrons.
Gyms and fitness centres would continue to be restricted to 50 people indoors, with patrons to be spaced at least three metres from one another in areas with weight machines or classes. Face coverings would be required except when regularly exercising, and appointments would need to be made to enter. In retail, dining, meeting, and exercise venues, music would need to be no louder than the volume of a normal conversation to avoid people raising their voices and risking a greater spread of the virus.
The EOHU area was originally due to move to the higher “orange” or “restrict” category when the new system was unveiled on Tuesday. The region was downgraded after discussions with Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, who said the region’s low level of community spread and stable rolling average did not justify to additional precautions.
“For our merchants and for individuals locally, it doesn’t mean much more than what we’re doing now,” Dr. Roumeliotis said of the new “yellow” rules. “They’re required to have a safety plan, which most do, just to tell us what plan they have for COVID precautions.”
The region’s most recent seven-day rolling average rate of transmission was 26.7 per 100,000, down from a high of 55.9 per 100,000 on October 14. Prescott-Russell, where most of the local cases were recorded, showed a rolling average transmission rate of 33.2 people per 100,000. Any rate above 25 per 100,000 is considered high, but Dr. Roumeliotis said the local figures had been inflated by outbreaks in long-term care homes and other institutions. Community transition without traceable links, he said, remained relatively low in the region.
The region’s worst institutional outbreak, at the Prescott and Russell Residence in Hawkesbury, entered its fourth week on Friday. Fifty-seven resident cases and 52 staff members’ cases had been resolved, with a total of 92 residents and 57 employees since the outbreak began. Sixteen people had died at the residence since the outbreak started.
In total, 192 cases were active in the EOHU area as of Friday afternoon, of which 112 came from the Prescott-Russell region. Local active cases included;
- 59 in Hawkesbury;
- 16 in Clarence-Rockland;
- 12 in Alfred & Plantagenet;
- 9 in Champlain;
- 6 in Russell;
- 5 in Casselman;
- 4 in The Nation, and;
- 1 in East Hawkesbury.
The next EOHU media briefing is expected on Monday.