(Sanjay Maru/CBC - image credit)
After nearly two months of lockdown, the region's top public health doctor says Windsor-Essex meets the criteria for the less stringent red zone of restrictions, a change that could come as early as next week.
But Dr. Wajid Ahmed stressed that even though the COVID-19 situation is improving, there is still a global pandemic and the threat hasn't gone away.
"Our case rates are still high — much higher than where we were before in September or October timelines. So there is this potential, and we have seen that, that things can change very quickly," Ahmed said at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's daily briefing on Tuesday.
Under a new provincial plan to gradually ease COVID-19 restrictions announced Monday, Windsor-Essex will stay under current the stay-at-home order until at least Feb. 16. Any decision about whether restrictions can be relaxed will take effect after that date.
'No right answer'
In reacting to the provincial plan, Ahmed acknowledged the difficulties of balancing public health with other interests such as the economy and mental health. He said there was "no right answer."
"It's understandable that the government is trying to balance that risk, and I think [locally and individually] we also have to understand that it's not only the government that will solve all our problems — it's us, too."
Ahmed said that the region's data would be reviewed and the province would make a decision. There hasn't been word on when that announcement is expected but, as Ahmed noted, the province typically has announced such changes on Fridays.
Windsor-Essex has been under a lockdown since mid-December. But currently, with new cases arising at a rate of approximately 40 to 50 per 100,000, the region meets the criteria for the red "control" zone, Ahmed said.
Red is the second-strictest set of rules in the province's five-colour public health restrictions framework. It would see capacity increased to 75 per cent at supermarkets and other stores that sell essentials, and 50 per cent for other retail.
It would also mean that indoor dining can resume at limited capacity and many personal care services can be offered.
19 new cases of COVID-19
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported two new deaths on Tuesday, along with 19 new COVID-19 cases. Five of the new cases are close contacts of previously confirmed cases, two cases are outbreak related and four were community acquired. The remaining seven are under investigation.
Throughout the region there are 314 known cases of the virus that are currently active.
Since the pandemic began, there have been 12,393 COVID-19 cases recorded in Windsor-Essex and 345 deaths, according to WECHU.
There are 53 COVID-19 patients hospital in the region, with 12 in the ICU.
The number of outbreaks, which has declined considerably in recent days, stands at 24 as of Tuesday. There is one community outbreak, at Kensington Court Retirement Residence.
Four of the outbreaks are at hospitals -- two at Windsor Regional Hospital and two at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare.
Outbreaks are active at nine workplaces:
Three in Leamington's agricultural sector.
One in Kingsville's agricultural sector.
One in Tecumseh's health care and social assistance sector.
Two in Windsor's manufacturing sector.
One in Tecumseh's manufacturing sector.
One in Windsor's public administration sector.
There are 10 active outbreaks at long-term care and retirement facilities:
Franklin Gardens in Leamington, with 34 resident cases and 14 staff cases.
Heron Terrace in Windsor, with two resident cases and two staff cases.
Regency Park in Windsor, with 22 resident cases and 15 staff cases.
Devonshire Retirement Residence in Windsor, with 48 resident cases and nine staff cases.
Rosewood Erie Glen in Leamington, with 42 resident cases and 10 staff cases.
Augustine Villas in Kingsville, with 66 resident cases and 20 staff cases.
Sunrise Assisted Living of Windsor, with 15 resident cases and nine staff cases.
Huron Lodge in Windsor, with 48 resident cases and 26 staff cases.
Berkshire Care Centre in Windsor, with 99 resident cases and 62 staff cases.
The Village at St. Clair in Windsor, with 174 resident cases and 139 staff cases.