The provincial government charted its path out of the provincewide shutdown and back to the colour-coded regional approach known as the COVID-19 Response Framework Monday.
The provincial emergency declared under section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMPCA) on Jan. 12 will be terminated by midnight Tuesday.
The province’s stay-at-home order will remain in effect for most public health regions, including Grey-Bruce, until Feb. 16 when it will be lifted if COVID-19 trends continue to improve.
The current rules will apply until then, including the closure of personal-care services, indoor recreation facilities, fitness centres and ski hills; a 50 per cent capacity at most essential retailers; and no indoor social gatherings.
When the stay-at-home order is lifted, health officials will look at current “trends of key indicators” in each region. Those key indicators include transmission rates, hospital capacity, and available public health capacity to conduct rapid case and contact management.
The province will then “gradually transition” regions back into the colour-coded system, which includes the green, yellow, orange, red and grey “lockdown” stages, depending on the local public health landscape at the time.
Grey Bruce was in the yellow (protect) zone Dec. 26 when the provincewide shutdown went into effect. All final decisions will be subject to a review of the public health indicators at the time of the transition. There is no guarantee Grey-Bruce will go right back to yellow when it moves back to the reopening framework.
All except three public health units (Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health, Renfrew County and District Health Unit) will remain in lockdown with a stay-at-home order in effect until at least Feb. 16. The three above listed health units will transition to the least restrictive green (prevent) zone on Wednesday.
COVID-19 hot-spots like Toronto, Peel Region and York Region will wait until at least Feb. 22 to rejoin the province’s colour-coded reopening framework.
The province is also installing an “emergency brake” mechanism to its colour-coded reopening framework to allow for “immediate action” if a public health unit region experiences a rapid acceleration of COVID-19 transmission or if its health-care system runs the risk of becoming overwhelmed. In this event, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health in consultation with the local medical officer of health, Dr. Ian Arra for Grey-Bruce, may advise the region to move into the grey (lockdown) phase temporarily to interrupt the rapid COVID-19 transmission.
The new emergency-brake function is being enacted because of the risks posed by the new highly-transmissible COVID-19 variants beginning to emerge in the province.
The province also announced it plans to loosen restrictions for small businesses in the grey (lockdown) regions when the reopening framework is back in place. Limited in-person shopping will be allowed with 25 per cent capacity in most retail settings with individuals required to wear a face-covering and maintain physical distance when indoors – with limited exceptions.
The same will apply to some other businesses, including discount and big-box retailers, liquor stores, hardware stores and garden centres.
The province did not say when these new measures would come into effect.
Other new measures in the updated reopening framework include a requirement for individuals to wear a face-covering when attending an organized public event or gathering (where permitted) if they are within two metres distance of another individual who is not part of their household (both indoor and outdoor). All other requirements for gatherings and organized public events would be maintained.
The transition back to the province’s reopening framework is being made to support the province’s economic recovery. People are still being “strongly advised” to stay at home, avoid social gatherings, minimize travel between areas with different rules, and limit close contact outside their household when the stay-at-home order is lifted. Employers in all industries are being asked to make every effort to allow employees to work from home.
Other orders currently in force under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act have been extended to February 23 and will be extended further if necessary. These include compliance orders for retirement homes.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit reported three new cases of COVID-19 Monday, in Owen Sound, Kincardine and Hanover.
There are now 21 active confirmed cases in the region including five probable cases and 108 high-risk contacts being followed by the health unit’s contact tracing team.
Probable cases are symptomatic people who are considered high-risk contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases who have not yet been tested for the virus or have yet to receive the result of a test.
One person with COVID-19 is hospitalized locally. One person has died after contracting the virus since the start of the pandemic.
To date, 665 Grey-Bruce residents have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 including 78 health care workers. Of those cases, 643 are now considered resolved.
No long-term care facilities, schools or childcare centres are currently experiencing a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak, however, a case associated with Queen of Hearts Nursery School in Owen Sound has been identified.
According to a news release distributed Monday, the health unit is working with the nursery school to address a probable case associated with a cohort at the childcare centre.
An outbreak was not declared because there is currently no evidence transmission occurred within the childcare centre, the health unit said.
The person with the probable case of COVID-19 has been contacted directly by the health unit’s COVID-19 case and contact management team. The health unit is working with the individual and the childcare centre to identify others, both in and out of the childcare centre environment, who may have been exposed and to determine their risk level.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit will direct those considered at risk regarding testing requirements and recommendations
Public health units throughout Ontario reported a combined 1,265 new cases of COVID-19 Monday.
Thirty-three more deaths of people with COVID-19 were reported bringing the province’s death toll to 6,538.
The province administered another 6,987 doses of COVID-19 vaccines Sunday. A total of 386,171 shots have been given out so far, and 106,163 people have received both of the necessary doses to be considered fully immunized.
There were 901 COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals Monday. That’s 258 fewer patients than at this point last week.
While hospitalization rates appear to be declining, the number of severe cases remains relatively constant, with 335 people in intensive care and 226 requiring a ventilator.