Almost 50 new cases of COVID-19 were announced at the Prescott and Russell Residence on Friday.
Almost 50 new cases of COVID-19 were announced at the Prescott and Russell Residence on Friday.

Residence hits 110 cases; dining, gym rules announced

Stephen Jeffery
EAP
Almost 50 new cases of COVID-19 at the Prescott-Russell Residence were confirmed on Friday, as new restrictions were announced for indoor dining and gyms.

Seventy-eight cases are active at the Prescott and Russell Residence, which included 46 residents and 32 employees. Twenty-two residents and 10 employee cases have been resolved, while the death toll from the virus in the residence remained at one. The residence is waiting on the results of 42 other tests. The residence would remain closed to visitors while the outbreak continued.

Paramedics from the Prescott and Russell Emergency Services, the Canadian Red Cross, the Champlain Local Health Integration Network and the Ministry of Long-Term Care were providing assistance at the site, including to address staffing shortages. United Counties of Prescott and Russell chief administrative officer Stéphane P. Parisien said some staff members who had earlier tested positive but were no longer infectious had since returned to work.

Parisien said investigations into how the outbreak started continued. But he said he suspected a resident may have brought the virus into the residence after an outside visit with family. Most positive cases were from asymptomatic individuals.

“We can’t pinpoint, but we know pretty darn close that’s likely the case,” he said. “The employees at the Prescott and Russell Residence have been working around the clock to ensure the continued care of our residents, as they have been doing since the beginning of this pandemic, with professionalism and a commitment to keeping our residents safe and sound.”

Restrictions for restaurants, gyms

Meanwhile, capacity for dining at restaurants and classes in gyms will be reduced in the latest effort to cut the rising public transmission rate in Prescott-Russell. Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis told reporters on Friday that additional queue management policies would be required for restaurants, as well as a maximum of six patrons per table. The total number of patrons in the indoor and outdoor sections of a food and drink establishment must not exceed 100. For banquet halls, the total number of patrons permitted in the premises cannot exceed 50 indoors or 100 outdoors.

Gyms and fitness centres with class sizes would be limited to 10 or fewer people, excluding staff. The total number of people permitted in in areas containing weights or exercise machines at any one time cannot exceed 50 people and each organized activity must take place in a separate room. Those rules applied to gymnasiums, health clubs, community centres, multi-purpose facilities, arenas, exercise studios, yoga studios, dance studios, and other indoor fitness facilities. Steam rooms, saunas, whirlpools, or bathhouses must be closed. 

The restrictions would come into force at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, October 25 under a Section 22 order and would remain in effect for 28 days until November 22 at 11:59 p.m.

Dr. Roumeliotis had hoped earlier in the week that the provincial government would introduce the restrictions instead, which would have made the rules easier to enforce. But on Thursday Premier Doug Ford said he would leave those decisions to local health units, accusing some of “passing the buck” to the province when it came to restrictions.

“I'll be the bad guy, I have no problem; I'm the premier, I'm responsible, I'll be accountable,” Ford said during a media conference in response to questions about EOHU. “But some regions pass the buck and say, 'no, no, you do it. I don't want to be the bad guy’.”

Dr. Roumeliotis pushed back on that assessment during his Friday media briefing, and said he had held off on the order because he understood the government had been looking at the option. “I’m not passing the buck, I was just waiting for that,” he said.

Dr. Roumeliotis said businesses would not be closed under this order, as they had been under the modified Stage 2 restrictions in Ottawa, Toronto, Peel and York. Screening measures would be enhanced to ensure customers at dining venues were not showing symptoms, while restaurants would be encouraged to take reservations in order to reduce lines outside.

Cases across the region

Most of the new cases reported in the EOHU region on Friday came from the spike at the Prescott and Russell Residence, bringing the total number of active cases to 200. However, Dr. Roumeliotis said some cases from the Prescott and Russell Residence had not been counted in time to make the daily total. The majority of Friday's cases were in the Prescott-Russell region, which recorded 165 active infections and a total of 380 since the pandemic began. Local active cases comprised:

  • 92 in Hawkesbury;
  • 21 in Clarence-Rockland;
  • 15 in Russell;
  • 15 in Alfred and Plantagenet;
  • 9 in The Nation;
  • 9 in Champlain;
  • 3 in Casselman, and;
  • 1 in East Hawkesbury.

Three other outbreaks – two in Cornwall and one in Alexandria – were ongoing at long term care or nursing homes. Seven patients were in hospital, with two in intensive care.

The next local briefing from Dr. Roumeliotis is scheduled on Monday.