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EOHU region returns to Orange-Restrict

By: Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

SOUTH DUNDAS – Businesses across Eastern Ontario reopened February 16th when the provincial Stay-at-Home order expired. 

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit region is one of 27 health unit regions where businesses and non-essential retail were allowed to reopen as COVID-19 levels continue to decline. 

Restaurants and bars will again be able to offer in-person dining, with a maximum of 50 people indoors and four people per table. Alcohol cannot be sold between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., and both must be closed by 10 p.m. Take out and delivery services are exempt from the closure times. 

Yes, you can finally get a hair cut. Personal care businesses like hair-stylists, barber shops, and estheticians can open with protocols in place. 

Enhanced public health restrictions remain in place including mask-wearing, occupancy limits, contact tracing logs where applicable, and screening of all employees.

Sports facilities can reopen provided that physical distancing can take place. Indoor arenas are limited to 50 people indoors and skaters must wear a mask unless on the ice. No decision was made by publication deadline on when arena use in South Dundas will resume.

Limited events can resume with the return to Orange level restrictions. Gatherings where physical distancing can be maintained are limited to 10 people indoors, 25 people outdoors. But close contact is limited to only people within your own household. If a person lives alone, they are allowed to have contact with one other household only.  

Areas are allowed to reopen with the return to the provincial colour-coded COVID-19 restrictions framework. The EOHU region, along with the City of Ottawa, reopen at the Orange-Restrict level. Neighbouring Leeds-Grenville-Lanark District Health Unit covering Brockville, Prescott, Smiths Falls and Gananoque, reopen at the Green-Protect level. 

This area may be open in Orange, but conditions could soon move the region to Yellow-Protect. 

COVID-19 positivity continues to decline across the health unit. Key indicators used to determine what direction the second wave of the pandemic is going all point in the right way, down. 

The rolling seven-day average of new infections per 100,000 people was 20.4 as of the February 12th update. Meanwhile the reproductive rate was 0.79, test positivity was 1.62 per cent, and intensive care rates were in decline. The regional ICU occupancy rate was 80 per cent on Friday, and no patients were currently in the COVID-19 ICU in Cornwall. 

A region can move into Yellow if, in part, the seven-day average is between 10 and 24.9 cases per 100,000 people. That decision is made in consultation between the EOHU and Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams. 

One of the changes put in place with the reopening is modifications to the Grey-Lockdown restrictions. If a region has to enter Grey-Lockdown, non-essential retail will not be closed again. Instead, those businesses must drop to 25 per cent of its normal occupancy, and have screening in place for customers. Grocery stores and big-box stores that sell groceries or pharmacies must drop to 50 per cent occupancy. Other restrictions like no in-person dining and the closure of sports facilities would remain in place with the Grey-Lockdown measures. 

Also changed because of the increased threat of spread of COVID-19 variants from the U.K., Brazil, and South Africa, is how a region can be locked down. If a sudden surge in local cases occurs, the medical officer of health for the local health unit (EOHU in this case) and the chief medical officer of health can immediately move an area into Grey-Lockdown restrictions. 

As of Friday’s update, 19 people were in hospital due to the Novel Coronavirus, 12 in Cornwall Community Hospital, one in Hawkesbury, and six in hospitals in Ottawa. Locally, four new cases were reported in South Dundas February 11th, increasing the overall case count for the municipality to 28 since the pandemic began.

Active cases in South Stormont are high due to an outbreak at the Woodland Villa long-term care home in Long Sault. That facility is one of 10 in outbreak. 

Active cases for the entire EOHU region stood at 144 people. 

With the February 15th Family Day statutory holiday, updated statistics will not be reported until after The Leader’s publication deadline on February 16th. The health unit updates COVID-19 numbers weekdays.

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