EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis told the media at a briefing on Thursday that tests appeared to show signs of the variants. If confirmed, they would be the first recorded instances of the variant in the health region.
“We have two possible variants of concern in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit area,” he said. “I’m not surprised, we’ve always been worried about it and this is another reason for us to be extra cautious in that regard.”
Variant strains of COVID-19 have concerned health officials across the province due to their highly contagious nature. There have been more than 400 confirmed cases of the variants of concern in Ontario, including nine in Ottawa.
Inspections of the region’s businesses at the end of last year found 145 contraventions of COVID-19 safety requirements, the local health unit has revealed.
Multi-ministry teams visited 263 businesses to inspect safety compliance in the EOHU area at the start of December last year. No contraventions were found at fifty-nine percent of the businesses, but the remainder were found to have one or more issues.
In a statement, the EOHU said the visits were mostly to educate and inform businesses about the restrictions, but 11 warnings and one ticket were issued during the three-day campaign. Thirty percent of the contraventions were related to missing or incomplete workplace safety plans, 29 percent came from inadequate screening of staff, patrons, or visitors, and 27 percent were due to a breach of masking requirements.
The remainder of the breaches were related to a lack of physical distancing measures and enforcement, inadequate personal protective equipment for staff, cleaning practices, little monitoring of capacity limits, and high music volumes. Retail made up the bulk of businesses visited, followed by restaurants, fitness centres, and personal services.
The EOHU said most of the contraventions were corrected immediately or shortly after the visits. However, the inspection teams used “enforcement discretion when they found significant non-compliance" at businesses.
The campaign was run before the province-wide shutdown and additional capacity measures were introduced as COVID-19 cases surged across Ontario. EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said the provincial taskforce was expected to inspect the region’s businesses again in the near future.
A series of inspections made across Ontario since the EOHU visit focused on big box retailers, which remained open through the shutdown if they sold grocery or pharmacy items. Dr. Roumeliotis previously said non-compliance had been an issue in many businesses in lunch rooms or other areas that could not be accessed by the public.
No active outbreaks were reported at long term care or retirement homes in Prescott-Russell as of Thursday afternoon. There were also no outbreaks in schools, though one student case was reported at École élémentaire catholique Sainte-Trinité in Clarence-Rockland, École élémentaire catholique Saint-Joseph in Wendover, and École secondaire catholique régionale de Hawkesbury. One child case was also reported at Garderie Municipal St-Trinité child care centre in Clarence-Rockland.
Of the 108 cases active in the EOHU on Thursday, 28 were in Prescott-Russell communities including:
8 in Alfred-Plantagenet;
8 in Clarence-Rockland
6 in The Nation;
3 in Russell;
1 in Casselman;
1 in Champlain;
1 in Hawkesbury, and;
0 in East Hawkesbury