Region faces new restrictions as Windsor-Essex moves into province's orange COVID-19 category

·5 min read

The Windsor-Essex region has been moved into the province's orange or "restrict" COVID-19 category, with new restrictions coming into effect Monday.

The region moved from the yellow to orange COVID-19 category after just one week as the number of local active cases jumped to 230 Friday.

Catholic school shuts down due to COVID-19 outbreak

The change in category comes as a second school in the region has been shut down due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

WJ Langlois Catholic Elementary School was ordered to be dismissed Friday by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU), and will remain closed for 14 days.

According to the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, four positive COVID-19 cases have been confirmed at the school.

Thilelli Chouikrat/Radio-Canada
Thilelli Chouikrat/Radio-Canada

A spokesperson for the school board confirmed 260 students have been sent home as a result of the shutdown, plus staff.

"As far as the individuals who have tested positive, we are hoping that that they are doing well. The administrator of the school, the principal, has reached out to them to to provide their support. But we do know that they are now self isolating for the next 14 days," said Melissa Farrand, WECDSB superintendent of education.

According the WECHU, the entire school is considered high-risk for exposure to COVID-19. The health unit said staff are working closely with the school and the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) administrators to manage the outbreak, further limit the spread of infection, and ensure ongoing measures are maintained to protect students and employees.

"It is essential for students and staff of WJ Langlois to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms every day. If you have any symptoms, go get tested," says Dr. Wajid Ahmed, Medical Officer of Health with WECHU.

The school will be sending all parents and guardians a notice about the outbreak, which includes additional public health guidance.

"We will continue to work with public health to keep the school community informed about the outbreak and implement all necessary additional health and safety measures to clean and disinfect the school," says Terry Lyons, Director of Education with WECDSB.

The school board said students and teachers from WJ Langlois will resume learning online by Monday.

Staff have started compiling lists of families who require devices and technological support, and will assist in transitioning students to online platforms.

"We're very fortunate in that we have established a process already to provide for a smooth transition to online learning. So on Monday, the classroom teachers will be reaching out to students via their online platform and they'll be able to continue their learning through virtual means," said Farrand.

Earlier this week F.W. Begley Public School was closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The school was the first in the region to close due to the virus.

Windsorites react to orange category restrictions

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the region's move in categories "underscores" the need for Windsor residents to take messages from public health officials to heart.

"We are now 35 days until Christmas and if we want to have any hope of seeing friends and family over the holidays then we need to take steps today to stop the spread and bend the second wave's curve," he said in a written statement Friday.

Dilkens is telling residents to avoid social gatherings and to limit interactions "to the greatest extent possible."

"As previously announced, City of Windsor by-law, Windsor Police and Windsor Essex County Health Unit enforcement has been increased and we will not hesitate to lay hefty fines on those individuals and businesses behaving irresponsibly," he said.

One Windsor restaurant owner said while the new restrictions don't come as a surprise, staff will still be scrambling to implement new protocols.

"There's some new things we are going to have to implement with a staff in a short turnaround time. The only thing I'm concerned about, you know, screening patrons as they walk in. That's a pretty big job and I have to take a couple of days to think about how to implement that correctly," said Nicole Sekela, owner of Rock Bottom Bar and Grill.

Stacey Janzer/CBC
Stacey Janzer/CBC

Under the orange category, food and drink establishments are required to screen patrons in accordance with instructions issued by the office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Line ups and patrons congregating outside venues will also need to be managed by the venue, with two metres distance required.

Sekela said some of her staff may lose some working hours due to the new restrictions. Restaurants will now have to close earlier under the orange category, and are only allowed to seat four people per table.

"I'd like to see how the community responds and hopefully, you know, with these restrictions, hopefully they still feel safe to come out because they're put in place to keep people safe. So I hope that they have enough confidence to come out still and just follow the guidelines," she said.

Sekela said her staff and other business owners in the community are worried about the possibility of the region being bumped further in the provincial COVID-19 response framework.

"We were just in yellow and now it seems like, you know, we're right smack in orange and we know red might be around the corner. And I think a lot of people, you know, because of being shut down or just open for takeout for so long, that they do worry about their finances and a lot of people just kind of feel like they're just getting caught up," said Sekela.

What's included in the orange category?

Under the orange category, here are some key differences from the yellow category according to the province:

  • Limit operating hours for restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, now to close at 10 p.m.

  • Liquor sold or served only between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

  • No consumption of liquor permitted between 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. at restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments

  • Limit of 4 people may be seated together at restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments

  • Closure of strip clubs

  • Team sports must not be practiced or played except for training

  • Patrons in sports and recreational fitness facilities may only be in the facility for 90 minutes except if engaging in a sport