Another Ontario region is reinstating some lockdown restrictions amid surge in cases
It's been a while since people in Ontario have had to deal with the coloured zones and numbered stages of yore that varied by public health region as parts of the province reopened at different speeds earlier on in the health crisis.
Since June, we've been dealing with the 3-Step Roadmap to Reopen that was gradually implemented across all regions equally at the same time (with a few rare exceptions), and prior to that, we were in a lengthy state of provincewide shutdown.
While we've been lucky enough to shed pandemic restrictions up to and including the nixing of most capacity limits in settings where proof of vaccination is required (which is most public indoor spaces), there has been talk of reintroducing some older measures in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers.
One region, Greater Sudbury, already made the move to do so independently of the rest of the province a few days ago on Nov. 10, and now another has followed suit.
Algoma Public Health, of which the 75,000-person city of Sault Ste. Marie is a part, announced on Monday that in the midst of high case counts, three new rules — or old rules, rather — are coming into effect.
In response to rapidly rising COVID-19 cases in Algoma, and especially in the municipality of Sault Ste. Marie, Algoma Public Health is taking further action to curb the spread of the virus, prevent severe illness & death in our communities, and protect health system capacity. pic.twitter.com/v3aYZ7X1yq— Algoma Public Health (@AlgomaHealth) November 15, 2021
For starters, anyone in the region who tests positive for COVID-19, is a close contact of a confirmed case, or generally suspects they may have the virus is now legally ordered to follow isolation requirements and other public health direction, or face a set fine of $750.
This amount can rise to up to $5,000 per day or part of each day that the offence continues, upon conviction.
Secondly, as of 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 17, businesses in Sault Ste. Marie specifically will need to bring back the capacity limits and physical distancing requirements that the province recently did away with.
This means that bars and restaurants, gyms, salons and spas, indoor and outdoor recreational amenities, event spaces and a whole whack of other settings will need to ensure that people can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from one another while on the premises.
Business owners will also have to get stricter about enforcing existing masking policies.
Lastly, as of 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 19, anyone aged 12 and older in the region will need to show proof of vaccination if they are entering an indoor facility to actively participate in, coach, officiate, volunteer, or spectate at an organized sport (outside of at school). This was not previously the case under vaccine passport rules.
2. Requiring Sault Ste. Marie businesses and organizations to reinstate recently lifted provincial capacity limits and physical distancing requirements, and strengthening masking requirements both indoors and outdoors.— Algoma Public Health (@AlgomaHealth) November 15, 2021
Both Algoma Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Loo and Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano implored residents in a press release to take action to stop the spread of the virus as case numbers spike.
"Stay home if you have any symptoms, cut down on gatherings and encounters where you have unmasked, face-to-face close contact with people you don’t live with, and please get fully immunized and help others to do so," Loo said after issuing a Section 22 Class Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act along with new and amended letters of instructions under the Reopening Ontario Act to pass the new changes.
On Sunday, the region reported 22 new COVID-19 infections, making for 155 active cases of the virus and 709 total in the fairly rural northern public health unit.
Loo notes in the release that in the week of Nov. 8-14, the region hit a rate of 121.5 cases per 100,000 population and rising, with a per cent positivity of four per cent among those tested.
"By comparison, in early October, seven-day incidence was less than five cases per 100,000 people and perc ent positivity was less than 0.5 per cent," she states, adding that these new restrictions are "a tool of last resort."
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