Ontario to lift lockdown in the north Feb. 16, except in one northern region
SUDBURY -- The Ontario government has announced that the stay-at-home orders will be lifted next week for all health units in the north except one. Here is what you need to know.
Friday afternoon, the province announced it is reopening 27 public health regions with some limitations.
After a request made by Dr. Jim Chirico, the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit will remain under shutdown measures when the lockdown on Sudbury, Manitoulin, Algoma, Timiskaming and Cochrane Districts is lifted at 12:01 a.m. Feb. 16.
The Nipissing and Parry Sound Districts will continue to follow lockdown orders until at least Feb. 22 along with Toronto, Peel and York Region Public Health. Chirico, the medical officer of health for the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, asked the province to keep his region shut down due to concerns about a rise in COVID-19 variant cases.
As of next Tuesday, four areas of the northeast will move to the province's revised COVID-19 Response Framework. Here is where each health unit will start:
Orange - Restrict:
- Porcupine Health Unit
- Public Health Sudbury & Districts
Some of the key changes include:
- Private events and social gatherings are now limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors
- Organized public events in staffed businesses and facilities are now 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors
- Food and drink establishments are limited to 50 people indoors, four people per table and no buffet-style service
- Personal care services that require removal of face coverings are not allowed
- Sports and recreational fitness facilities are limited to 10 people per class indoors, 25 people per class outdoors and 50 people in areas with weights and machines
Residents must still limit close contacts to those in the same household unless you live alone, then you can bubble with one other household.
All businesses must post signs at entrances reminding people how to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms.
"The move to this level of the framework is a necessary step given the increase in positive COVID-19 cases over the last few weeks, the outbreaks and the presence of the UK variant in our region," said Dr. Lianne Catton, medical officer of health for the Cochrane District. "It is important to recognize that although some increased levels of activity are available it does not mean they are safe, and we need to all be acutely aware of the risks associated with increased contacts with those we do not live with."
Yellow – Protect:
- Algoma Public Health
Green – Prevent:
- Timiskaming Health Unit
"Although we are moving to green, it does not mean everything is a go," said Dr. Glenn Corneil, acting medical officer of health and chief executive officer for Timiskaming Health Unit. "Moving forward, I am particularly uneasy about the variants of concern that are more contagious and are circulating in Ontario. It’s especially important to avoid non-essential travel and social gatherings. With our smaller population, it only takes a few cases for us to move categories. That is why even in the green category it is still imperative that everyone practice all public health measures and continue to be COVID smart."
The Thunder Bay District Health Unit is being placed under Red-Control and the Northwestern Health Unit under Yellow – Protect.
Health officials said each region will stay at the same level for at least two weeks at a time and the government will assess the impact of safety measures when considering whether to move a region to a different level.
"Public health regions will move up through the levels, if necessary, based on the set indicators and thresholds outlined in the framework," the province said in a news release Friday afternoon.
These changes have been made in consultation with Ontario's chief medical officer of health along with the key indicators such as lower COVID-19 transmission rates, improvements in hospital capacity, and availability of rapid case and contact management.
"While we are cautiously and gradually transitioning some regions out of shutdown, with the risk of new variants this is not a reopening or a return to normal," said Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health. "Until vaccines are widely available, it remains critical that all individuals and families continue to adhere to public health measures and stay home as much as possible to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities."
For communities in a region under the Orange – Restrict level or higher, long-term care home visitor restrictions will apply and facilities must implement enhanced testing requirements.
Because of the rise in the COVID-19 variants of concern, the province has added extra protection through an "emergency brake" to allow officials to move a region into Grey – Lockdown as well as issue public health orders to target specific transmission risks in a community.
Since Christmas Eve, there have been 768 new COVID-19 infections in the northeast and 692 cases resolved, including 27 fatalities. These deaths have happened since Jan. 11.
As of 3 p.m. Friday, northeastern Ontario has 106 active infections of the disease: 34 in Greater Sudbury, 27 in the Cochrane District, 21 in the Algoma District, 18 in the Nipissing District, five in the Parry Sound District, and one in the Timiskaming District. This after seven cases have been recorded as resolved since last night.
Since the pandemic began, there have been a total of 1,361 COVID-19 infections, 1,254 of those have been resolved, including 38 COVID-related deaths.
The good news is the vaccination rollout continues and health units are prepared for the next phase of deliveries.
Public health officials are urging residents to help stop the spread of the disease and protect the health system by continuing to stay home, limit trips outside of your household, refrain from non-essential travelling and gatherings, as well as wearing a face covering.
It is also recommended to do a self-assessment every day, stay home if you are feeling unwell, get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been advised you may have been exposed. Find your nearest testing site here.
There is free mental health support available, find more information here.