Public Health Sudbury & Districts will move into the yellow zone of the Ontario government’s new COVID-19 response framework on Monday.
The news came hot on the heels of the Sudbury health unit’s Friday announcement of eight new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of active cases in Public Health’s service area to 66.
Moving into the Yellow-Protect zone will mean changes for local businesses and organizations, additional enforcement enforcements and fines, and enhanced education in high-risk settings.
Bars, restaurants, and other food and drink establishments will have to limit operating hours, and sports and recreational facilities will begin operating at reduced capacity.
All changes will take effect on Monday at 12:01 a.m.
“Our number one priority right now is getting the numbers down and keeping people safe," Premier Doug Ford said in a release. "That's why, on the recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, we're updating the framework with new thresholds so we can slow the spread of this virus.
“These adjustments are necessary to respond to the latest evidence we're seeing, and we are prepared to make further adjustments as the health experts continue to review the current public health restrictions. We must do whatever it takes to stop our hospitals from being overwhelmed and protect our most vulnerable.”
The Ontario government announced it would lower the thresholds for each level on the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework in response to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases throughout the province on Friday.
The latest modelling shows that if the number of new cases continues to grow at its current rate, the province could register up to 6,500 new cases per day by mid-December.
Within the next two weeks, the province will likely exceed its intensive care threshold of 150 beds, under any potential scenario, experts warn.
Public Health Sudbury & Districts will join Huron Perth Public Health, the Middlesex-London Health Unit, Southwestern Public Health, and the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit in the Yellow-Protect zone.
Under the new guidelines, all food and drink establishments must close at midnight. Liquor can only be sold or served from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
A limit of six people seated together will come into effect and establishments must collect contact information for all seated patrons.
Sports and recreational fitness facilities will have the following capacity limits: 10 people indoors, 25 people outdoors, and 50 people indoors in an area with weights or exercise equipment.
Patrons must maintain a distance of three metres apart, and facilities must collect contact information for all patrons and attendance for team sports. Reservations will be required for entry.
“Our case counts are at al all-time high with 40 of our 204 total cases reported in the last week alone. We are averaging about 12 high-risk contacts for each case so far. These numbers combined with how stretches our public health and health care systems are mean that stronger protection measures are needed,” said Sudbury’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe.
“The Yellow-Protect restrictions must be accompanied by a recommitment of everyone to the basic public health prevention measures. How this surge in cases evolves and the measures and restrictions that will be necessary to control it are in our hands.
“Make no mistake, our everyday actions either allow the virus to spread or allow us to contain it. We can choose wisely and dig deep.”
Of Public Health’s newly reported cases, five of them are outbreak-related and three of them are under investigation. The individuals are self-isolating and following directions from Public Health.
The health unit has reported 204 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.
There are currently eight patients admitted to Health Sciences North who have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting their results. There are currently no admitted patients who have tested positive for the virus.
As the number of positive cases of the virus continue to climb in the Sudbury region, more businesses are reporting confirmed cases in their employees.
The Real Canadian Superstore located at 1485 Lasalle Blvd. recently confirmed that “three team members tested positive on a presumptive test for COVID-19.”
The grocery store’s parent company Loblaw Companies Limited posted on its website that the employees were tested on Nov. 7, and the last time they worked was on Nov. 2 and 3.
“For transparency, we regularly update the sections below with all positive COVID-19 cases in our stores, by province, in the last 15 days,” said Loblaw on their website.
“Given the important role we play in our communities, we are prepared for all possible situations, including a positive test for COVID-19 in our stores. In these cases, we work closely with Public Health and follow their guidance to ensure proper notification of close contacts and required cleaning and sanitization in our stores.”
Walmart in Sudbury is reporting eight cases at its two locations, according to reports.
The Rainbow District School Board also confirmed on Friday that a positive case of COVID-19 had been reported at Northeastern Elementary School in Garson.
Through contact tracing, Public Health will notify all close contacts of local cases directly. If you are not contacted by Public Health, you are not considered a close contact.
A close contact of a confirmed cases is someone who has been within six feet or two metres of an infected person for longer than 15 minutes.
As of October 3, the Province of Ontario paused social circles and is advising that all Ontarians allow close contact only with people living in their own household and maintain two metres physical distancing from everyone else. Individuals who live alone may consider having close contact with another household.
Although it is still permissible for 10 people to gather indoors and 25 people to gather outdoors under Yellow-Protect zone restrictions, in-person gatherings of any size should be limited and should always include distance and masking when distancing is not possible.
Limiting our contacts and in-person interactions as much as possible is critical in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
Unless people are from the same household, keep 2 metres or 6 feet apart and wear a face covering if distancing is not possible. Face coverings must be worn in all indoor public spaces and workplaces, and they must also be worn in other indoor spaces where distancing is not possible.
It’s also important to remember to stay home if you are ill. A mild illness could be COVID-19 and may be much more severe for someone else who might catch it.
For more information on the province’s new COVID-19 response framework visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open.
For more information on local cases visit www.phsd.ca/COVID-19 or call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705-522-9200.
Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star