Dreams of a “green” Christmas were dashed on Nov. 20, as the provincial government, during its daily press conference, confirmed that several regions within Ontario would be moving into a more restrictive tier, or zone, of the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework. Grey Bruce was announced as one of the areas moving from green – prevent, to yellow – protect, as of Monday, Nov. 23 at 12:01 a.m. The Grey Bruce Public Health confirmed the implementation of strengthened health measures in an email on Sat. Nov. 21.
There are five levels within the framework, prevent (green), protect (yellow), restrict (orange), control (red) and lockdown (grey). Assignments to each level last a minimum of 28 days, or two incubation periods, before being reassessed on a weekly basis. However, movement to a more restrictive zone will be considered sooner if there are rapidly worsening trends. If Grey Bruce numbers decrease within the 28-day period, the region could return to green just before the Christmas holidays.
Restrictions include, but are not limited to:
Limits for functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, barbeques or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, or parks are 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
Limits for organized public events and gatherings in staffed businesses and facilities are 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
Limits for religious services, weddings and funerals are 30% capacity indoors and 100 people outdoors.
Restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments will be required that patrons be seated with a two-metre minimum or impermeable barrier required between tables. Up to six people may be seated together. Dancing, singing and performing music is permitted, with restrictions. Karaoke is permitted, with restrictions (including no private rooms). Contact information must be provided by all seated patrons. No buffet style service is permitted. Line-ups and patrons congregating outside venues managed by venue must separate by a two-metre distance and face covering is required. Face coverings are required except when eating or drinking only. Personal protective equipment, including eye protection, is required when a worker must come within two-metres of another person who is not wearing a face covering. Night clubs only permitted to operate as restaurant or bar. Establishments must be closed from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. Liquor may be sold or served only between 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. No consumption of liquor is permitted between 12 a.m. to 9 a.m. The volume of music must be limited to allow for normal conversation. A safety plan is required to be prepared and made available upon request.
In retail settings, fitting rooms must be limited to non-adjacent stalls. Line-ups and patrons congregating outside venues managed by venue must have a two-metre distance between patrons and face covering is required. Retailers should limit volume of music to be low enough that a normal conversation is possible. For malls, a safety plan is required to be prepared and made available upon request.
A full list of protect event restrictions is available at www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open#yellow.
News of the change from green to yellow really came as no surprise. The health unit, in its daily situation reports listing cases in the community, had been asking the public to continue to practice the three Ws – washing hands frequently, watch your distance (ideally two metres apart) and wear your face mask correctly, in order to control the spread of COVID. Other tips included avoiding crowds, arrange for outdoor activities instead of indoor activities, staying home if sick and avoiding close contact (unprotected and within six feet) with people from outside a household. People have also been asked to avoid travel to areas with higher transmission and minimize all non-essential travel.
As of Nov. 18, there were 42 active cases of COVID in Grey Bruce, and close to 200 active high risk contacts in the counties. Less than a week later, the number of active cases had risen to 53 cases (Nov. 23) and 284 high risk contacts were associated with active cases.
Ian Reich, public health manager for the Grey Bruce Health Unit, says the jump in numbers is a direct result of people not following basic practices. Groups have been coming together at many different locations and not adhering to basic public health recommendations, including personal distancing, face covering and staying home when sick. He said many cases are a result of the entire family testing positive, with multiple cases within one household.
“Some people say we are done with the virus” said Dr. Ian Arra, Grey Bruce medical officer of health. “The truth of the matter, the virus is not done with us. The virus is not going to stop, until we stop it. It is critical that we stay focused on preventing the spread of the virus, and work together to protect the most vulnerable of us.”
Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent