COVID forces Ford to step up restrictions

·3 min read

In an effort to deal with an emerging tsunami of COVID-19 omicron cases, Ontario has again tightened pandemic restrictions.

Premier Doug Ford announced Monday the province is moving back to a modified version of Step 2 in the Roadmap to Recovery in order to “blunt” the effects of the wave with the number one goal of preserving hospital capacity. This was to take effect Jan. 5.

Ford said Ontario needs to “brace for impact” as cases are expected reach into the hundreds of thousands, and even if only one per cent of those people require hospitalization, it will exceed the system’s capacity.

Closing indoor spaces and putting off the start of in-person learning for another two weeks will allow Ontario to “blunt the latest wave,” Ford explained, easing pressure on the hospital system allowing further time to roll out booster shots and immunizations.

Ford said the wildly transmissible omicron variant can only be slowed; it can’t be stopped.

The rise of the variant is being seen in every corner, and Chatham-Kent is no exception. As of Monday, a total of 29 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, 21 of whom are not vaccinated.

Three more deaths from COVID-19 also occurred since the last official report was released Dec. 30, bringing the death toll to 30.

Public Health officials said two men, one in his 60s and the other in his 70s, and a woman in her 80s passed away.

Monday saw the hospital’s ICU capacity running at 90 per cent, with eight covid positive patients. Seven ventilators were in use. Six of them were COVID-19 patients.

The medical surge bed critical care department is full at 100 per cent, and 38 staff were off due to having the virus or being exposed to it.

The average age of COVID-19 patients at CKHA on Monday was 68.5 and there were three patients in hospital who reside outside Chatham-Kent.

Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby said he is not considering any additional measures for the municipality, adding he believes getting the shot is still the best defense.

“I continue to beat the drum that the vaccines are excellent at preventing serious illness and death,” Colby said, “even if they are not so good a preventing infection per se. The main focus now is on harm reduction.”

Ontario restrictions include:

- Limiting indoor gatherings to five people, outdoor gatherings to 10.

- Students to return to online learning for the next two weeks.

- Work remotely if possible.

- No indoor dining and theatres, cinemas and museums will close.

- Gyms are closed.

- Retail stores and malls operate at 50 capacity.

- Personal care allowed to operate at 50 per cent.

- Public libraries operate at 50 per cent.

· Reduced capacity at indoor services such as weddings, funerals and religious matters limited to 50 per cent of a particular room.

- All non-emergent surgeries are paused across Ontario.

The government has stated some of the measures will last for a minimum of 21 days.

For a full list visit, online.

Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice

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