Hirji concerned by rise in COVID-19 deaths: November could be Niagara's deadliest month since April

·3 min read

Niagara’s acting medical officer of health said the rise in recent COVID-19 deaths in the region is becoming a troubling trend.

In a media briefing on Thursday (Nov. 12), Dr. Mustafa Hirji said Niagara has already matched the number of deaths in November as all it did for all of October.

“In October, we had seven deaths associated with COVID-19, and already in November, we are barley one third of the way through and we have matched the number,” said Hirji, the region’s acting medical officer of health.

“It is likely we are going to see that number increase further, and that is quite concerning.”

After the region reported no COVID-19-related deaths in the months of August and September, November could be its deadliest month since April, when 17 such deaths were recorded.

Hirji said local public health officials are stepping up their messaging across the community as numbers of deaths and new cases continue to rise. He added the data shows social gatherings, and people with large numbers of contacts continue to be responsible for a majority of the spread.

“We think that message is something that has not broken through as strongly as it needs to over the past several weeks,” Hirji said.

In an effort to limit the number of outbreaks and discourage the types of gatherings between households that often lead to infection, Hirji issued a new order under Section 22 of the Ontario Health and Promotions Act that will require restaurants and bars collect more information on patrons.

The order, which comes into effect Saturday, Nov. 14 at 12:01 a.m., means dining will be limited to people within the same household, or no more than two people who are “socially essential” for those who live alone, tables will be limited to six people, and patrons will have to attest to not be experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.

Hand sanitizer must also be available at every table.

According to Hirji, the new measures put in place hope to target the risk of infection in restaurants and bars, where 14 outbreaks have been recorded between Oct. 1 and Nov. 6.

“We tried to make sure the requirements are narrowly tailed to the risk of people socializing with people outside of their household at a table. It is also narrowed to just food premises where we are seeing the greatest risk.”

Until the number of new cases stabilizes across the region, Hirji urged residents once again to limit their social contacts to those within their household. He hoped that, through continued vigilance over the next month, and a bend in the curve of transmission, social circles could be opened up more for the holiday season.

“Our hope is that by taking these targeted measures now, we will be to flatten the curve, and make sure that by the time we get to our winter holidays, cases are more under control, and there is the ability to maybe socialize with a larger family circle.”

Bryan Levesque, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News