The province has moved Windsor-Essex into its yellow or "protect" COVID-19 category Friday afternoon just after restaurants and bars in the region adopted looser restrictions earlier this week.
The region moved from the green to yellow COVID-19 category as the number of local active cases jumped to 185 Friday. Windsor-Essex's medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed predicted this shift in categories during the health unit's COVID-19 briefing Friday, adding that if it didn't happen he was prepared to go above provincial recommendations and implement tighter restrictions himself.
"Cases are starting to increase ... this is a concerning trend for our community ... Everyone has suffered enough in this pandemic and it's time to take our own responsibility and do the right thing and take action," Ahmed said.
After the province's announcement Friday, Ahmed issued a release indicating additional restrictions for the region that are intended to go "above and beyond" provincial regulations. The new requirements are intended for residents and business owners in the region and will go into effect on November 16 until further notice.
New requirements from WECHU effective November 16
New restrictions for residents now include zero tolerance on all COVID-19 prevention measures, and social gatherings are to cap at ten people indoors and 25 people outdoors. The health unit is also calling on residents to minimize close contacts to household members only, and to avoid visiting other homes.
Grocery stores in the region are now to designate specific store hours for seniors who do not have any other support systems for essential grocery needs.
Personal care services that require removal of a mask or face covering are no longer allowed under the new requirements. Whirlpools, baths, floating pools and sensory deprivation pods must be closed, unless they are used for a therapeutic purpose prescribed by, or administered by a regulated health professional.
The health unit has also provided new instructions for gyms and fitness facilities, which now include limitations on spectators.
"At this time, I would like to remind our residents that COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in our community and all residents of Windsor and Essex County need to do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19," reads the release issued by Ahmed.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said new provincial restrictions and instructions from WECHU are "completely appropriate" as the region sees a weekly incidence rate of 19.1 cases per 100,000, along with having a positivity rate and virus reproductive rate higher than one per cent
"The problem is the second wave is here and all of us are fatigued. And so when you're fatigued, you're more likely to let your guard down," said Dilkens in an interview with CBC.
Dilkens said the holiday season approaching is really a "recipe for very much concern" as more residents in the region might be inclined to gather with friends and family, especially indoors. He added it's important that residents adhere to the new instructions and avoid gathering with anyone from outside their own home.
"That's going to be one of the best ways to keep each other safe, which means things are going to be different. It's not going to feel as great as it usually does around this holiday season when we're used to gathering with one another and celebrating and cheering one another and just enjoying one another's company," he said.
According to Dilkens, the city and the Windsor Police Service will be working together in a "coordinated and cooperative way" to enhance enforcement of COVID-19 protocols in response to the updated measures in place by public health.
"The time for education is over. It is now time to educate bank accounts and that's exactly what this team of people are going to do. What they were going to go out and start issuing tickets for people who are not complying with the new rules," he said.
Businesses impacted by continued changes
On Tuesday, Windsor-Essex just adopted the guidelines under the province's green or "prevent" category, which included expanded hours of operation for restaurants and bars.
Now, under the new category, they'll have to scale back once again.
Restaurants and bars are now going to have to close by midnight, with call at 11 p.m. Additionally, under the new yellow category, no more than six people will be allowed at tables, and all contact information will need to be collected from each guest for contact tracing.
"If the yellow protect measures stay the same..we're okay with that. we can work with that," said John O'Kane, co-owner of John Max Sports and Wings, which has three locations across the city.
"The next colour code, the restrict or the intermediate measure, which we don't exactly know, is it going to be the same restrictions as we had last week...that's where things get tight you know with sale reductions," said O'Kane.
What's included in the yellow category?
Under the yellow category, here are some key differences from the green category:
Establishments must close at midnight.
Places selling or serving alcohol can only do so between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m.
No alcohol consumption is allowed between 12 a.m. and 9 a.m.
Contact information must be collected for patrons of restaurants or bars.
Limit of six people allowed to sit together at an establishment.
Recreational programs are limited 10 people per room indoors and 25 outdoors.