Ontario has declared a state of emergency due to rising COVID rates.
Ontario has declared a state of emergency due to rising COVID rates.

Province declares state of emergency, issues stay-at-home order

Stephen Jeffery
EAP
Residents will be ordered to stay at home except for essential trips from later this week after the provincial government declared a state of emergency.

The state of emergency was expected to continue for 28 days. A stay-at-home order was also issued, which started on Thursday at 12.01 a.m. that required everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work.

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L'Ontario déclare l'état d'urgence

Under the changes, outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings were restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions. All non-essential retail stores, such as hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, had hours restricted to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) recorded 166 new cases on Saturday and Sunday, pushing the active case count to 695 on Monday. The Prescott and Russell region, which for much of last year reported the majority of cases, recorded just 35 of the weekend infections. Cornwall, by comparison, marked 71 new cases.

The western areas of Prescott and Russell had been hit the hardest in recent days. On Monday, Clarence-Rockland recorded 92 active cases, Russell had 52, and Alfred-Plantagenet had 41. Elsewhere in Prescott-Russell, Champlain had 18 active cases, while Casselman, Hawkesbury, and The Nation recorded 17 each. East Hawkesbury reported no active cases.

EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said the increase in cases could be due to Christmas gatherings. Data presented during Dr. Roumeliotis’ media conference on Monday showed more than half of all transmissions between August and January 5 in Prescott-Russell were between close contacts.

Of those close contact transmissions, most were passed between members of the same household, followed by other acquaintances outside the household, or in workplaces. “We get it in the workplace, we get it visiting friends or not taking precautions, then we take it home and spread it,” Dr. Roumeliotis said. “Unfortunately, some of the stuff that’s going on at the moment, like people getting together at home, we can’t see, so we still have to take the educational point of view and, where appropriate, enforcement.

Eighteen people in the region have been hospitalized, of which five were in intensive care. Two people in an Akwesasne long term care home died of COVID-19 over the weekend, which moved the region’s death toll to 38. Since the pandemic began, 1971 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the EOHU area. More than half those cases had happened since the end of November, and Prescott-Russell accounted for 1000 of the reports.

“Clearly this is grey zone material right now, which means we would be in a lockdown regardless [of the province-wide shutdown],” Dr. Roumeliotis said.   

Outbreaks

Fourteen institutional outbreaks were ongoing in the EOHU area on Monday. In Prescott-Russell, cases at long term care and retirement homes had been limited to staff, with no residents testing positive at the current outbreaks in Villa St-Albert, Foyer St-Viateur Nursing Home in Limoges, and Russell Meadows Retirement Home.

Meanwhile, elementary school students did not return to in-person learning this week as planned at the start of Ontario’s lockdown. Instead, they will return at the same time as secondary students on January 25, after the provincial government announced the change on Thursday.