If the rise of COVID-19 cases in the region tapers off soon, northwestern Ontario could move back into the Green-Prevent level of Ontario’s COVID-19 response by Christmas Day.

The medical officer of health with the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, explains how the province decides when to move a region from one protection category to another.

“The province monitors the statistics for each health unit on a weekly basis. Generally, they look at the statistics on Tuesday, have conversations with the local health units on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and make their decision on Fridays,” she said, during a media briefing. 

Ontario says the region will stay in their new level of restrictions for a minimum of 28 days, or two COVID-19 incubation periods, at which time Ontario will reassess whether we should move back to the Green-Prevent level, or further into the Orange-Restrict level. The 28-day period ends on Christmas Day.

“From my perspective, it’s really important to look at the trends that we’re seeing in the cases, and what’s leading to increasing cases in the area. We’ve identified the importance of people staying in their household, and it’s really important for people to remember face masks and face coverings,” noted Dr. Young Hoon.

The Northwestern Health Unit’s catchment area moved into the Yellow-Protect status as of Nov. 30, after a sharp increase of COVID-19 cases in the Kenora region. There’s currently 17 active cases in the region, out of a total of 121 confirmed cases and 2 probable cases.

Some of the new restrictions include:

- Some businesses now require a safety plan. This must be a written plan that includes things like screening employees, ensuring people maintain at least 2 metres between themselves, disinfecting surfaces and objects, and supporting hand hygiene. The Government of Ontario has a template to help employers create a safety plan.

- Food establishments and bars must be closed between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m., and no more than six people can sit together.

- Liquor can only be sold or served between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. and cannot be consumed in establishments between 12 a.m. and 9 a.m.

- Contact information must be collected from all patrons in settings such as restaurants, personal care service settings, meeting spaces, recreation facilities, and bingo halls.

- Patrons of sports and recreational facilities must be at least 3 metres apart where there are weights/weight machines and in exercise classes. Programs are limited to 10 people per room inside and 25 people outside. Preregistration or appointments are required.

The health unit recommends that everyone assume COVID-19 is in their community and practise preventive measures like physical distancing, wearing a mask in enclosed public spaces and when physical distancing is a challenge, good hand hygiene, and not touching their face.

Anyone who has symptoms, or who has been in contact with a positive case, should self-isolate and get tested.

For more information:
COVID-19: More restrictions imminent as region moves in Yellow-Protect