The United Counties of Prescott and Russell recorded five new cases of COVID over the weekend, with a total of 56 active in the region. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) as a whole recorded 19 new cases, most of which were connected to clusters or ongoing outbreaks in long-term care homes.
The area officially moved from the yellow “protect” category to the more severe orange “restrict” level on Monday, after the province tightened the thresholds at which each colour-coded restriction came into effect. The maximum weekly incidence rate in the yellow zone was lowered from 39.9 cases per 100,000 to 24.9 per 100,000.
Under the orange zone, which had earlier been implemented in neighbouring Ottawa, last calls at bars and restaurants changed from 11 p.m. to 9 p.m., only four people were permitted at a table instead of six, and theatres, arenas, and fitness centres were limited to 50 people per complex. Personal care services that required the removal of masks were not permitted.
EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis had recommended that the region remain in the yellow zone, given the region’s situation had improved since the publishing of data the government had relied on for the decision. The most recent weekly incidence rate was 16 people per 100,000, well below the yellow zone’s threshold. But the province’s decision was based on data from November 9, when the transmission rate was closer to 36 people per 100,000.
Dr. Roumeliotis expressed frustration at the choice to impose greater restrictions, but said he understood the government’s caution. If the rate of transmission dropped, he said the region could return to the yellow level within the next week or two.
“Our real numbers tell us we’re on a downward trend, and we’re yellow,” he said. “I was a bit frustrated, I’ll be honest… but I guess I see their rationale, they want to see the trends going downwards, and I would have been even more upset if we had to close things down.”
Despite the declining rate, Dr. Roumeliotis said residents needed to continue to be vigilant until a vaccine had been approved and distributed. He said news of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine efficacy was encouraging, and the province would determine ways to distribute treatments once they had received Canadian approval.
“It’s going to be a trickle, and between now and then we need to continue and be vigilant with our public health measures,” he said. “Even if we do go into a yellow zone this week or next week, it’s not much change for the wider population. All the public gathering, the stay-at-home as much as you can, not socializing, sticking to your home as your social bubble, all remains the same.”
Meanwhile, a Russell retirement home reported the start of an outbreak on Thursday. Two residents at the Russell Meadows Retirement Home tested positive for COVID-19. Test results from other residents and staff were pending.
No new cases were reported at the Prescott and Russell Residence in Hawkesbury, where 73 of the 97 cases in residents and 58 of the 63 cases in staff had been resolved. The death toll from COVID at the long-term care home stood at 12, as well as another seven deaths unrelated to the virus.
Across the region, 141 COVID cases were active on Monday, a drop of two since Friday. Of those active cases, 56 were in Prescott-Russell communities, including 17 in Hawkesbury; 13 in Clarence-Rockland; 8 in Champlain; 7 in Russell; 6 in Alfred & Plantagenet; 4 in The Nation; 1 in Casselman, and; 0 in East Hawkesbury.