Windsor-Essex's pandemic status is orange, meaning the region is at medium risk of COVID-19, according to a new alert system rolled out by the local health unit Friday.
The alert level given to the community — yellow for low, orange for medium and red for high — depends on four factors: viral spread and containment, public system capacity, health system capacity and incidence tracking capacity. While the health unit said it will actively monitor how the region is performing in each of these domains, it plans to only provide a weekly pandemic status update unless a situation escalates.
"We need to focus attention in certain indicators to address growing concerns of COVID-19 in our community to keep our community safe," medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said about the orange status.
In response to a mild increase in community transmission in the last week, Ahmed provided orange-level recommendations to help people make decisions around socializing and physical exercise.
"[This system] will help the community to make informed decisions to reduce COVID transmission risk," Ahmed said.
Should the status change to red, Ahmed said the health unit would have to assess what is driving the escalated response and what that would mean for the community in terms of a modified rollback of reopening measures.
On Friday, the health unit reported four new COVID-19 cases, two of which are from community transmission and another two are resulting from close contact of a confirmed case.
Overall there are 42 active cases in the region.
Lifetimes on Riverside in Windsor is the only long-term care home in outbreak with one resident case and there is another outbreak in the food and beverage industry in Kingsville.
Medium-risk socializing and exercising suggestions
At this time, Ahmed said people need to limit their interactions to those within their household. He also provided the following tips:
Maintain physical distancing and wear a mask when in contact with anyone else.
Avoid indoor gatherings with people who do not live with you.
Connect with friends and family virtually.
As for physical exercise, Ahmed advised the following:
Avoid group fitness classes where physical distancing cannot be maintained or masks cannot be worn.
Avoid close contact sports with members outside your household.
Consider outdoor exercise where physical distancing can be maintained (i.e. walking, hiking, biking).
Consider indoor exercise at home with members of your household (i.e. yoga, dancing, pilates).
Consider virtual fitness sessions with friends and family.
Consider active transportation (i.e. walking or biking) to essential services.
Low and high-risk Halloween activities
During Friday's briefing, CEO Theresa Marentette provided some advice on how locals should celebrate Halloween.
Marentette noted that those considered high-risk of contracting the virus, which includes the elderly, those older than 70 years of age and anyone who is immune-compromised or has a chronic health condition, should participate only in low-risk activities.
Low-risk activities include celebrating at home with immediate family and being creative with family events such as a trick-or-treat scavenger hunt or having virtual costume party.
High-risk activities would include parties and trick-or-treating. If locals want to take part in these activities, Marentette said they should trick-or-treat from a distance, wear a proper mask or face covering (not costume masks), practice frequent hand-washing, avoid touching surfaces, avoid large groups and limit the number of households being visited.
For those handing out treats, Marentette recommended that people have a pump hand sanitizer nearby, distribute treats from a distance with tongs or by placing them on a table, provide treats that are individually packaged, wear a mask, place physical distancing arrows on your driveway and sit outside to avoid lineups or congestion at the doorway.