Green zone gave false sense of security, says Renfrew County official

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Towns that are part of the Renfrew County and District Health Unit, like Arnprior, Ont., are moving to the yellow zone on the province's colour-coded pandemic scale Monday following a spike in cases in the region. (Stu Mills/CBC - image credit)
Towns that are part of the Renfrew County and District Health Unit, like Arnprior, Ont., are moving to the yellow zone on the province's colour-coded pandemic scale Monday following a spike in cases in the region. (Stu Mills/CBC - image credit)

Renfrew County's medical officer of health is hopeful the region moving into the yellow level on Ontario's colour-coded pandemic scale "sends a message" to residents that they need to be careful.

Renfrew County and District Health Unit moves into the yellow "protect" zone starting 12:01 a.m. on March 8, which limits six people per table at restaurants and caps 10 people for indoors and 25 outdoors for fitness classes, among other restrictions.

The county and its surrounding towns reopened in the green zone in early February, the least restrictive of phases. Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Cushman said it was "worth a try" but the move to yellow isn't unexpected with case counts growing after Family Day weekend.

"This is a challenge and we knew we'd have to watch this, as I said, like a hawk ... and it's time to put on the brakes," Cushman said.

The unit reported 15 cases in Arnprior, Ont., and McNab/Braeside, all tied to private gatherings. According to Cushman, those account for a third of the region's cases and the unit is still discovering spread from those gatherings.

With the region now averaging about four cases a day, Cushman said going yellow "sends a message that things have to tighten up."

"I think the real message here is that people, their social network, their social grouping is too big," Cushman said. "We're seeing many, many more contacts per case."

False sense of security, says mayor

While the restrictions in the yellow zone are "actually not that different" to green, Mayor of Bonnechere Valley Township Jennifer Murphy described the situation as "a bit frustrating."

"I think putting us into green perhaps gave people a sense that we were going into normal, but green was not normal. Green was COVID normal," Murphy said.

Murphy said the challenge moving forward will be educating residents on the new restrictions, something that's "difficult" in a rural setting, with not everyone on social media platforms.

Changing from green to yellow won't make much of a difference for North Algona Wilberforce, according to the township's chief administrative officer Andrew Sprunt.

Sprunt said most residents have complied with safety measures in place and with the town being so rural, there aren't many businesses that will be affected.