LEVEL ORANGE: COVID-19 restrictions in EOHU area to tighten Monday

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 5:03 p.m. with comments from Dr. Paul Roumeliotis on the upcoming change.

CORNWALL – The Eastern Ontario Health Unit will be moving from COVID-19 restriction level yellow to level orange on Monday, the province has announced.

The decision was made Friday afternoon by the Ontario government given the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases as Ontario Public Health has recorded over 1,000 new cases a day for the last several days. The province has lowered thresholds for each level of its colour-coded framework.

During his call with the media late Friday afternoon, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis says the health unit “happened to get caught” based on data from Nov. 9 when public health indicators locally were a lot higher. They’ve been going down since then.

Roumeliotis was asked by Cornwall Newswatch how he felt about the situation. “To be honest with you, I’m a bit frustrated. I expressed that to the ministry today saying that our real numbers telling us we’re a downward trend. We’re sort of yellow, not orange. If you look at all the parameters really we tick off all the boxes for yellow except one.”

He’s hoping the area will go back to yellow within a week. “It’s might be as early as next week we’ll be reevaluated. I was a bit frustrated because I requested not to be put in orange to be left in yellow. But I guess I see their rationale.”

He believes the province is being more careful they are more careful because trends of other health units are going up.

For the yellow category the EOHU is currently in, the threshold was 10 to 39.9 weekly cases per 100,000 people and positivity rate of 1-2.5 per cent. That’s been changed to 10 to 24.9 per 100,000 people and positivity rate of 0.5-1.2 per cent.

For the orange category the region will go to Monday, the threshold was 40 to 99.9 weekly cases per 100,000 people and positivity of 2.5-9.9 per cent. That’s changed to 25 to 39.9 per 100,000 people and positivity rate of 1.3-2.4 per cent.

Here’s what the Orange-Restrict level will mean for you:

  • The general public health measures stay the same: private events 10 indoors and 25 outdoors max. Public events 50 indoors and 100 outdoors max. Religious services, weddings and funerals are 30 per cent capacity indoors and 100 outdoors.
  • Restaurants and bars will now have maximum 50 indoor capacity, four people per table. Closing time is 10 p.m. with last call having a 9 p.m. cutoff.
  • Sports and fitness facilities are 50 max indoors (except pools, rinks at arenas, community centers, multi-purpose facilities). No spectators except for parent/guardian
  • Meeting and event spaces are maximum 50 per facility.
  • Malls have to screen all patrons at the door, limited capacity in retail stores and shopping malls.
  • Personal care services, like barbers and nail salons, are not allowed to perform services where removal of face coverings have to take place. Required screening of all patrons.
  • Bingo halls and gaming establishments are not allowed to serve alcohol after 9 p.m. No drinking liquor after 10 p.m.
  • Movie theaters are maximum 50 per facility.

The changes take effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Nov. 16.

They were made after the latest modelling shows Ontario could have up to 6,500 new cases per day by the middle of December. The province will likely exceed its ICU bed threshold of 150 within the next two weeks, modelling shows.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says the government has seen “an alarming shift in the trends of key public health indicators” and the plan must evolve as the pandemic continues to evolve.

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