Enjoy yourself, but don't forget the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us.
That's the message from Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed on the first day of the new provincial reopening plan.
Step 1 of the plan, which took effect just after midnight, allows for outdoor dining with tables up to four, gatherings of up to 10 people outside, non-essential retail to open at 15 per cent capacity, and more.
Locally, the pandemic is in "a much better state" right now, with lower case rates than before the start of the third wave, Ahmed said at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's (WECHU) YouTube update on Friday morning.
"We would like to keep it that way, and the only way we can keep it is if we follow still some of these [public health] guidelines," he said.
Asked whether he was comfortable with the measures included in the provincial plan, or was perhaps looking at imposing further restrictions, Ahmed said any local changes would be based on the ongoing assessment of risk to the community.
But given that the full vaccination rate is approaching one-fifth — 18.7 per cent of adults have had both doses as of Friday's update — Ahmed suggested the region could even be ready for looser restrictions ahead of schedule.
"I think maybe we should be in a position ... to say 'hey, maybe can we move forward earlier than what the provincial plan looks like,'" he said.
Such a move would require a green light from the provincial government, since medical officers of health are allowed to impose new public health restrictions but don't have the authority to repeal provincial rules.
Case rates continue to fall
Ahmed presented data on Friday showing a continued weekly decrease in the region's case rates.
The seven-day COVID-19 incidence rate up to Thursday is 23.5 per 100,000 people, compared with 30.1 the previous week. The percentage of people who have gotten a positive result back from their COVID-19 test is three per cent.
While COVID-19 case counts are falling in Windsor-Essex, the pandemic continues its deadly toll, with five deaths reported by public health officials this week.
Throughout the pandemic, 433 deaths have been linked to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the public health unit reported 13 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
The active case counts stood at 131, and a dozen residents with COVID-19 are being treated in hospital.
Overall, vaccination coverage stands at 60 per cent, with 263,566 people having received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Five outbreaks are ongoing in the region, including one at Casa de Dios y Puerta del Cielo church, and one at the Southwest Detention Centre that has been active since late April.
Theresa Marentette, CEO and chief nursing officer of WECHU, said the church outbreak involves multiple cases and contacts but isn't tied to a particular service.
Three outbreaks are occurring in workplaces — one in Windsor's health-care and social assistance sector and two in manufacturing settings in Tecumseh.
Who is eligible for vaccination in Windsor-Essex?
Currently, anyone 12 and up is eligible to book their first dose, and the following groups are eligible to book an appointment for a second dose:
Those who are 70 and older or turning 70 this year who had their first dose more than 28 days ago.
Those vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines on or before April 18.
Those who received an AstraZeneca shot as their first dose 12 weeks or more ago, and want to choose a different vaccine for their second shot.
Those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine at least 12 weeks ago and want a second dose of that product (pharmacies or primary care clinics only.)
Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton
Lambton Public Health reported one new COVID-19 case on Friday. The active case count was 29.
Chatham-Kent Public Health didn't report any new COVID-19 cases on Friday. The municipality's count of active infections stood at 14.