The Grey Bruce Health Unit said the region will move into a modified Step 3 just after midnight Friday morning and is strongly recommending residents adhere to Step 2 gathering limits and stick to restaurant patios.
With cases, hospitalizations and deaths continuing to surge in the region, fuelled by the highly transmissible Delta variant, the health unit is asking residents to slow their progression to Step 3 and strongly recommending following public health measures more in line with Step 2 of the province’s reopening plan.
The health unit is choosing to issue strong recommendations instead of regulatory orders to contain the spread of COVID-19, it said in a news release. The move is “based on our trust the public will comply,” the release said.
“A slow and modified progression into Step 3 in Grey-Bruce will reduce the risk of the current surge worsening. It will also restrain individuals who consider Step 3 an invitation to abandon precautions,” the release said. “Based on the public health principle of least intrusive, staying in Step 2 would deprive both businesses and the public from the additional opportunities available in Step 3. Especially as current epidemiology shows the risk of transmission remains unchanged in organized activities and regulated settings.”
The health unit’s “strong recommendations” may change to orders if control over the current surge of cases is “lost”, the release said. The health unit also warned it has the authority and will bring charges against individuals holding private events that are not in compliance with provincial regulations. According to the health unit, a large number of the currently active COVID-19 cases in the region are unvaccinated people and people who attended large gatherings where COVID-19 precautions were not followed. Nearly all of the active cases in Grey-Bruce involve the Delta variant.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit is strongly recommending Grey-Bruce residents maintain the current limits on private gatherings – 25 people outdoors and five indoors – even as the province moves to Step 3. As of 12:01 a.m., Friday morning, outdoor social gatherings of up to 100 people and up to 25 people inside are allowed in Ontario.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit is also strongly recommending residents only dine outdoors at restaurants and continue to wear masks and follow all public health measures, specifically at personal service settings, salons, workplaces, gyms, cinemas, and fast food locations.
The health unit said the modified Step 3 recommendations will only be revoked when the majority of young people (ages 12 to 35) have been fully vaccinated, or the current local surge has diminished.
The decision to move into a modified Step 3 locally, with strong recommendations in place to self-restrict, was made with the approval of the office of the province’s chief medical officer of health and after consultation with local hospital CEOs and other stakeholders.
“Due to the nature of the Delta variant, we know a high percentage of high-risk contacts will become cases. Those, as well as any further spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 variant, will result in additional hospitalizations, especially in vulnerable populations. A high number of hospitalizations may present a challenge to our hospital capacity resulting in the potential of a loved one being relocated to a hospital outside their local area as well as long waiting times for beds,” the news release said.
When Ontario moves to Step 3, indoor sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms, can open again at 50 per cent capacity or a maximum of 1,000 people.
Indoor dining, retail and personal care settings will have no capacity limits as long as patrons can properly physically distance.
Religious services and events such as weddings and funerals can also operate indoors, as long as people are following other public health measures.
Places such as museums, aquariums, casinos and bingo halls can run at 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent outdoors. Cinemas will also be allowed to open under the same restrictions.