Third wave lockdown imposed as virus numbers soar

·4 min read

Pembroke – It was no joke on April 1st when Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a third province-wide lockdown, this one scheduled to last for four weeks, but in Renfrew County concerns were already widespread about the increase in numbers and the rise of variants.

“Ontario, Ottawa and Renfrew County are in worse shape today than they have ever been which is why I am concerned,” Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health told Renfrew County council the previous day on Wednesday during a ZOOM presentation.

He said he believed the province would move Renfrew County into the Orange Zone under the colour-grid, even though he noted he was so concerned he was pushing for a stricter designation.

“I was actually pushing for Red because I had so many concerns,” he said.

However, when the provincial announcement came on Thursday afternoon, the colour-grid was once again set aside as the entire province entered a lockdown as of Saturday morning. While not going as far as a stay-at-home order which had been issued in December, this lockdown did see the closure of dining in restaurants and patios, hair salon appointments, cinemas, gyms and some other establishments. Churches also saw their capacity reduced to 15 per cent from the previous 30 per cent. However, outside services were allowed as long as people kept two metres apart.

What makes this lockdown different, however, is the majority of business are allowed to remain open but with reduced capacity. In fact, the lockdown, or shutdown as Premier Ford called it, is similar to the restrictions in the Grey Zone of the colour-grid. Grocery stores, pharmacies and stores that primarily sell food can open at 50 per cent capacity, while all other retailers, including big box stores are restricted to 25 per cent capacity. Schools remain open in most areas.

While there is no stay-at-home order, residents are encouraged not to leave home except for essential reasons. It is prohibited to gather indoors with anyone outside the household and people may gather outdoors with up to five people, but a two-metre distance must be maintained.

In his presentation to county council Dr. Cushman said he was especially concerned about the variants in the county. The variants are not only more contagious, but they make people sicker. When he was addressing council, he said there were five people in hospital and two in the ICU; he said patients are in hospital at both Pembroke Regional and also some in ICU in Ottawa. He said the pressures on hospitals are tremendous with some hospitals moving patients to other areas, including Ottawa and Kingston to ease pressure. With the looming long-weekend for Easter, he said there was concern about people letting down their guard, travelling and meeting with others, including extended family groups.

“There was real trepidation in my mind over the weekend about the train really coming off the rails. We have a four-day weekend which is a recipe for disaster, so people really need to behave.”

Dr. Cushman said he is in regular consultation with provincial officials, including local Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP and Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski, as well Ontario Chief Medical of Officer of Health Dr. David Williams.

He did note the rate of infection in Renfrew County and District does seem to go up and down. The numbers were in the Yellow category for two weeks, followed by a week in the Green and then up to Orange.

“What really bothered me was the rate of change,” he said.

The latest information from the health unit this Tuesday showed 20 cases have screened positive in the county and district for variants. At press time there were 28 active cases of COVID in the county with 24 people in self-isolation, three in intensive care and one in hospital. Four people in the county have died of COVID since the outbreak began and there have been 455 total cases with 10 new cases reported on Monday and seven on Easter Sunday.

Valley Manor in Outbreak

On Monday Valley Manor Long-Term Care in Barry’s Bay was once again considered in outbreak following a positive COVID-19 case of a symptomatic resident. According to a release from the Manor, this individual is currently isolated and appropriate measures are in place to prevent transmission to staff and other residents. The resident was described as being comfortable in the isolation unit. As well, the Manor is undertaking facility-wide testing to ensure no transmission occurs to staff or residents.

The home noted extensive outbreak precautions continue to be diligently followed and surveillance testing is continuing for all staff, residents and essential caregivers.

The Manor noted the outbreak will not delay any upcoming second dose vaccinations for staff.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader