Health Minister Christine Elliott announced the change at a media conference on Friday afternoon. The region will remain in the orange zone through the weekend, changing to yellow at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, November 23.
Under the yellow level, last calls at bars and restaurants will change from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., six people will be permitted at a dining table instead of four. Capacity limits for some businesses and fitness centres would be relaxed, while personal care services that required the removal of masks would be allowed to return if contact information was kept and a safety plan was prepared.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) was moved from yellow to orange last Monday after the thresholds for each of the province’s colour coded categories were tightened. Although the rolling average of cases had shown signs of decline at that time, provincial data showed the region remained above the 25 new cases per 100,000 people maximum needed to remain in the yellow zone.
Since then, the weekly incidence rate had dropped, reaching 10.3 people per 100,000 in the most recent EOHU report. Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, who had recommended against the original move to orange, said the return to yellow after such a short period of time may add to public confusion.
“In my mind, we didn’t have to go to orange, but the decision was made by the province looking at data from a couple of days before where we were just at the border,” he said. “I do believe the rapid in-and-out of these will lead to confusion and add to some fatigue as well. On the other hand, as far as the public is concerned, with gathering limits, masking and general requirements, they’re the same [in yellow and orange].”
Eastern Ontario’s COVID trends were not reflected across the province. Toronto and Peel will move into lockdown on Monday as cases continued to rise in the Greater Toronto Area.
There were no new cases reported at the Prescott and Russell Residence on Friday. Seventy-six of the 101 resident cases at the Hawkesbury long-term care home had been resolved, as well as 61 of the 64 staff cases. Twelve residents have died due to COVID since the outbreak began, while another seven residents who had tested positive died of other causes after their cases had been resolved.
Authorities were awaiting test results at Russell Meadows Retirement Home in Russell. The last round of testing returned negative results at the home.
From Monday, staff and volunteers in direct contact with patients and residents at all long term care homes in the region will be required to be tested twice a month. Support workers who do not provide direct care must verbally attest to having received a negative result in the past two weeks.
One student at St Jude's Catholic Elementary School in Champlain tested positive, as did one staff member at École secondaire catholique L'Escale in Clarence-Rockland
Across the region, 103 COVID cases were active on Friday, a drop of 20 since Thursday. Of those active cases, 48 were in Prescott-Russell communities, including:
19 in Hawkesbury;
9 in Clarence-Rockland;
7 in Russell;
6 in Champlain;
4 in Alfred & Plantagenet;
2 in The Nation;
1 in Casselman, and;
0 in East Hawkesbury.
The next EOHU briefing is expected on Monday. More information about yellow zone restrictions can be found at https://www.ontario.ca/covid19.