Chatham-Kent will be taking a step backwards as they move into the province’s ‘Red Control’ zone of the province’s COVID-19 response framework.
Since March 1, the region has been in the ‘Orange-Restrict’ zone but has seen a recent increase in cases. An additional eight areas in Ontario will also be changing COVID-19 zones next week. Windsor-Essex remains in the ‘Red-Control’ zone, and Sarnia-Lambton is still in ‘Grey-lockdown’.
However, the change of restriction levels does not come as a surprise for the region’s Medical officer of Health.
Dr. David Colby predicted the outcome last week as COVID-19 cases have been rising lately due to indoor gatherings. Colby also reminded the public that no one outside of a household is allowed in for a visit.
“We had a large number of cases yesterday, and this will be noticed. I’m just holding my breath to see how this shakes down,” said Colby.
As of Friday, March 19, Chatham-Kent had 91 active cases, including an active outbreak at a place of worship.
Chatham-Kent Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire said nobody is happy with the new restrictions, and while it’s unfortunate, the limitations must be respected.
“It’s unfortunate for the restaurant owners that as a result of some private gatherings, they’re going to be restricted in terms of their business operations, but we don’t have any choice in the matter,” said Shropshire.
Mayor Darrin Canniff said he hopes this is not a trend but is optimistic the region can get the train back on the tracks heading in the right direction.
Despite the change in restriction levels, the provincial government has made some changes to its framework in an effort to support Ontario’s economic recovery. As part of the latest changes, dining capacity will be adjusted at restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments for regions in Grey, Red, and Orange restriction levels.
Restaurants, bars and other sorts of food and drink establishments under red or orange can now use 50 percent of their indoor dining area but must remain in line with physical distancing rules. Total occupancy cannot go above 50 customers for red zone businesses and 100 customers for orange businesses.
There is one catch to the new rules, which has the local Legion Branch being forced to close their doors again. One of the province’s new rules, regardless of the zone, people sitting at a table must be members of the same household, with exemptions for people who live alone and caregivers.
“Due to the seating restrictions imposed by the “New Red Zone” regulations Branch 243 Executive has voted to CLOSE Branch 243 during this time,” stated Ridgetown Legion Br. 243 President Cindy Devereux. “We hope once again that these regulations encourage folks to stay safe, stay home and help our community to move out of the Red Zone.”
“We truly wish to be OPEN!” exclaimed Devereux. “Under the new restrictions our patrons need to maintain social distancing as they have been, however, now no one can be seated together outside of their household. As members and patrons are not always from the same household when visiting the Branch, our opening would make it virtually impossible to do so without staff having to police, and avoid confrontation by those who wish to not abide by the rules.”
“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience,” says Devereux. “If we all do our part, possibly we can see you soon.”
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News