Two new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Sudbury on Friday, but it's nothing compared to the rest of Ontario. And it's enough to move the region from the yellow zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework to the less restrictive “green-prevent” level.
Public Health Sudbury and Districts said its new cases were located in Greater Sudbury and the individuals are self-isolating.
At least one case was travel-related, while information about the second case was listed as “pending or missing” on the health unit’s website.
The sex and age group of both new cases were not specified.
In addition to the newly reported cases, one more case has been resolved. There are currently 11 active cases of COVID-19 in the region.
The Sudbury area will move to green-prevent on Monday, but the health unit is urging people to remain vigilant.
"Although our case numbers and other factors have allowed our region to move from the Yellow-Protect category to Green-Prevent category, it remains critically important to follow public health guidance," Public Health said on its Facebook page.
Provincially, however, the virus continues to spread at an alarming rate. Ontario reported its fourth-straight day of more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases, while Premier Doug Ford announced he's called an emergency meeting with his health minister, the province's chief medical officer of health, and hospital leaders "to discuss next steps to break the concerning trends in cases and hospitals in our province."
"Everything is on the table when it comes to protecting the health of Ontarians," Ford tweeted.
In a short public message later in the day, the premier said a decision will be made Monday, and an announcement will come at 1 p.m that day. But lockdowns will continue in Toronto and Peel, according to Ford, where they have been in place for nearly a month.
“We’ll have additional information on Monday for the balance of the province.”
Ford said he wants to hear from the CEOs of all hospitals in Ontario about “what’s happening on the ground, within the hospitals, within ICU units.”
Late Friday afternoon, the provincial government announced Toronto and Peel will remain in the grey-lockdown level until at least Jan. 4, when the situation will be re-assessed.
“In the nearly four weeks since Peel Public Health and Toronto Public Health were moved into Grey-Lockdown, there has been a continued and concerning increase in the public health indicators in both regions,” the government noted, laying out stark statistics showing the rise in case rates and hospitalizations.
Hamilton will be joining Toronto and Peel in grey-lockdown, as “the number of cases and hospitalizations are trending upwards and further action is required to help stop the spread of the virus.”
The province also announced that effective Monday, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington will move into “orange-restrict” (the same level as Ottawa), Brant County and Niagara Region will enter “red-control” and Timiskaming will be classified under “yellow-protect.”
The changes come “as the province engages with public health experts and frontline partners on what additional measures may be necessary to break trends in increased cases and hospitalizations,” according to the government news release.
Regions stay in their assigned level for at least 28 days (unless it’s a move to a more restrictive level, which has happened more quickly).
Of the 2,290 new cases reported Friday, 691 cases were in Toronto, 361 in Peel, 296 in York Region, 207 in Windsor-Essex County and 126 in Hamilton.
Forty more deaths were reported province wide, while 877 people are hospitalized with the disease. That includes 261 people in ICU, with 168 on ventilators.
As for the Sudbury area, the health unit released its weekly update with COVID-19 data recorded from Dec. 10 to Dec. 16.
During that time, eight new cases of the virus were reported and five were resolved.
Of the eight new cases, six were close contacts of a confirmed case, and one was travel-related.
This means that Public Health was able to identify how these people were exposed to COVID-19 and take action to prevent further spread.
The source of exposure for the last remaining case is still unknown.
Most of the cases reported during the last week were in Greater Sudbury, and one was reported in the Manitoulin district.
By the end of the day on Dec. 16, contact tracing information was available for all eight of the new cases.
“Through our investigation, we identified 25 people who had high-risk close contacts with these cases. That is an average of three high-risk close contacts per case, down from 14 contacts per case on average last week,” said the weekly report.
“Public Health follows up directly and regularly with every high-risk close contact to monitor them for symptoms, ensure they are self-isolating, and make recommendations for testing according to provincial guidance.”
The seven-day incidence rate was 4.0 new cases per 100,000 population (compared to 5.0 for the previous seven days).
The percent positivity was 0.33 per cent for the period of Dec. 7 to Dec. 13 (compared to 0.5 per cent for the previous seven days).
For Dec. 9 to Dec. 15, the effective reproductive number (Rt) was 0.92 for Northern Ontario, compared to 1.02 for Ontario overall.
The outbreak that was declared at Algonquin Daycare on Dec. 3 remains active. There are no other outbreaks or potential exposure risks to report at this time.
Public Health is reminding people to stay COVID-safe now that the holiday season is upon us.
It is recommended that people celebrate the holidays with members of their own household. Consider connecting with loved ones virtually this year.
“This year, we are getting the gift of the vaccine promise," Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe said in a release. "Along with the excitement of the holidays, the new COVID-19 vaccine will surely be remembered by generations as a pivotal accomplishment with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in sight.
“These are truly historic times and a testament to the value of collaborative, focused efforts for the common good between many sectors and communities.
“As I give my thanks this holiday season, top of my list is everyone who continues to follow COVID-19 prevention measures, allowing scientists and health care workers to catch up to the virus and support us to stamp it out."
Also Friday, Public Health, the City of Greater Sudbury, and the Greater Sudbury Police Service are reminding the public to do theirs even as businesses work to do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“Last week, these agencies proactively inspected 39 businesses in Greater Sudbury to ensure COVID-19 safety precautions were in place,” Public Health said in a release.
“The focus of proactive inspections on retail stores, bars, restaurants, and hotels — businesses that typically see an increase during the holiday season — is designed to promote compliance with proper COVID-19 safety measures and provide education and guidance to workplaces in our community.”
Owners and operators have been working hard to ensure a safe experience for their patrons as they adapted to new restrictions during the pandemic.
Residents are reminded that they have a part to play in limiting the spread of the virus, as well.
“Every patron must also follow public health requirements when visiting establishments to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus,” said Public Health.
“These actions include handwashing, mask use, physical distancing, and staying home when ill and getting tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19.”
For more information on how to celebrate, shop, and gather safely during the pandemic, visit www.phsd.ca/COVID-19.
— with files from Postmedia
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star