CORNWALL, Ontario – Rising COVID-19 cases could push the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) region back into a modified version Stage Two of Ontario’s COVID-19 pandemic recovery plan from the current Stage Three.
The province has given Health Units guidance for which stage they should be in based on their case numbers and spread.
Case growth of five per 100,000 in new case growth per day is considered low, between five and 25 is moderate and anything above 25 is considered high.
For the week of Oct. 4, the EOHU region was at 38, for the week of Oct. 11 to 18 the region was at 25 before counting cases in long term care facilities, when those numbers are added in the daily case growth reached 48 per 100,000.
Long term care facilities experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks in the EOHU region include Sandfield Place Retirement Home, St. Joseph’s Continuing Care Centre, The Palace Retirement Home in Alexandria, and Residence Prescott-Russel. Over the weekend, one resident at Residence Prescott-Russel died of COVID-19.
Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health with the EOHU said the decision to move the region to a modified Stage Two will be made in conjunction with the Ontario Medical Officer of Health.
“There are a lot of pros and cons to that. It is not only those numbers as well,” said Dr. Roumeliotis in reference to the daily case growth number, citing additional numbers such as number of hospitalizations and the fact that the EOHU is surrounded by two hot zones in Ottawa and Montreal. “Those are factors that will come into play if we need to go to Stage Two. The decision isn’t easy, but if we see the numbers continue like this we will see hospitals overwhelmed.”
Dr. Roumeliotis acknowledged that it was not an easy decision to make.
“I understand that people’s livelihoods are on the line here,” he said.
September was the highest month for new recorded COVID-19 cases on record since the pandemic began, but it has already been surpassed by October.
“In terms of our confirmed cases . . . we aren’t even half way through October and we have more than we did in September,” Dr. Roumeliotis said.
September saw 109 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, and October has had 125 so far.
There are currently 159 active COVID-19 cases in the EOHU region, with four hospitalized, one individual in the Intensive Care Unit, and 13 people infected with COVID-19 have died.
Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto were place under a modified Stage Two on Oct. 10 with the following restrictions:
- educing limits for all social gatherings and organized public events to a maximum of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors where physical distancing can be maintained. The two limits may not be combined for an indoor-outdoor event;
- Prohibiting indoor food and drink service in restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, including nightclubs and food court areas in malls;
- Closing of:
- Indoor gyms and fitness centres (i.e., exercise classes and weight and exercise rooms);
- Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments;
- Indoor cinemas;
- Performing arts centres and venues;
- Spectator areas in racing venues;
- Interactive exhibits or exhibits with high risk of personal contact in museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, landmarks, etc.;
- Prohibiting personal care services where face coverings must be removed for the service (e.g. makeup application, beard trimming);
- Reducing the capacity limits for:
- Tour and guide services to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors
- Real estate open houses to 10 people indoors, where physical distancing can be maintained.
- In-person teaching and instruction (e.g. cooking class) to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, with exemptions for schools, child care centres, universities, colleges of applied arts and technology, private career colleges, the Ontario Police College, etc.
- Meeting and event spaces to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, and
- Limiting team sports to training sessions (no games or scrimmages).
Dr. Roumeliotis pleaded with the public to not leave their homes unless necessary to help stop the spread of the virus.