Eastern Ontario moved to the orange-restrict level of the province’s COVID-19 framework on Monday, reducing the number of patrons able to sit together at bars and restaurants.
Eastern Ontario moved to the orange-restrict level of the province’s COVID-19 framework on Monday, reducing the number of patrons able to sit together at bars and restaurants.

Christmas in the orange zone possible as COVID cases surge

Stephen Jeffery
EAP
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) area is expected to remain in the orange zone for another week, after more than 60 new COVID cases over the weekend.

The provincial government announced on Friday that the orange “restrict” levels will be implemented in the EOHU region, which includes Prescott-Russell, Cornwall, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, and the northern portion of Akwesasne. The changes came into force at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, December 14.

The order does not mandate closures, but imposed additional restrictions on bars, restaurants, fitness centres and other indoor public spaces. Last calls at bars and restaurants will change from 11 p.m. to 9 p.m., only four people will be permitted at a table instead of six, and theatres, arenas, and fitness centres will be limited to 50 people per complex. Personal care services that required the removal of masks would not be permitted.

The decision was made after new cases, the average weekly rate of infection, and the reproduction rate rose in the region. A return to a more relaxed zone before Christmas was unlikely, after the region recorded 61 new cases over the weekend, and another 10 on Monday. As of Tuesday, there were 333 active cases in the region, up from 221 at the same time last week.

Two municipalities in Prescott-Russell – The Nation and Russell – have 30 or more active cases each, many of which were tied to outbreaks at schools and clusters in the area. Russell Township alone accounted for 10 of the new cases over the weekend.

At a Tuesday afternoon media briefing, EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said he had recommended that the government keep the region in the orange zone for at least another week. While the rolling weekly average numbers had risen to the higher red “control” zone last week, he said other factors, including the positivity and reproduction rates, were firmly within the orange category.

“We’re almost teetering at that red zone and I don’t want to go there, I particularly don’t want a post-holiday surge,” Dr. Roumeliotis said. “I’m asking people to stay at home, don’t travel, don’t receive visitors from out of the region, stay with your family bubble, and hopefully we can see that decrease.”

Outbreaks

The Prescott and Russell Residence outbreak remained stable as of Tuesday, with no changes in numbers in recent days. Eighty-five of the 109 resident cases had been resolved, as had 67 of the 68 staff cases. Fifteen deaths at the residence have been attributed to COVID since the outbreak began more than two months ago.

Two other outbreaks – at Valoris Residence in Hammond and Champlain Long Term Care in L’Orignal – reported cases in staff members only, with no residents testing positive so far. Testing continued at the two sites.

An outbreak continued at École élémentaire catholique Saint-Isidore, with cases in five students and seven staff members. Other school cases included one student and one staff member at École élémentaire catholique Embrun - Pav. Saint-Jean/Pav. La Croisée, four students at École élémentaire catholique Saint-Viateur, and one case each at École élémentaire publique De la Rivière Castor, Russell Public School, and Mother Teresa Elementary School.

The region

Across the region, six people were in hospital, with one in intensive care. Thirty-two people have died since the pandemic began in the region. Of the 333 active cases, 157 were reported in Prescott-Russell communities, including 37 in Russell; 29 in Casselman; 30 in The Nation; 24 in Hawkesbury; 22 in Clarence-Rockland; 10 in Champlain; 5 in Alfred-Plantagenet, and; 0 in East Hawkesbury.

The next EOHU media briefing is due on Friday, after the government makes a decision on which zone the region will be in from next week.