Eastern Ontario Health Unit Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis has recommended that the government return the region to the orange zone next week.
Eastern Ontario Health Unit Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis has recommended that the government return the region to the orange zone next week.

Return to COVID orange zone expected next week

Stephen Jeffery
EAP
Health officials have recommended that the provincial government move Eastern Ontario back to the more severe orange “restrict” category after a surge in COVID cases.

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) recorded nine new cases on Tuesday, after a rise of 34 over the weekend. Another 43 new COVID cases were reported on Friday, in what local health authorities believed to be a record one-day increase for the region.

Four Prescott-Russell municipalities – Casselman, Hawkesbury, The Nation, and Russell – had 20 or more active cases as of Tuesday afternoon. The increase in cases over the weekend was concentrated in areas of western Prescott-Russell, where a number of school cases were recorded.

At a Tuesday media conference, EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said he had spoken to Ontario’s chief medical officer and recommended that the area be moved from the yellow “protect” zone to orange “restrict”. Trends in the region’s rolling weekly average, positivity rate and R-value indicated the region had moved out of the yellow zone during the week, he said.

“I would tell you we’re close to 100 percent going to orange based on what I’m seeing,” he said. “I’d say it would last a week or two, hopefully, if it goes in the right direction.”

Cabinet will decide whether to move the region on Thursday, and will make an announcement on Friday. Despite the rise, Dr. Roumeliotis said most of the new cases could be traced to outbreaks or clusters, limiting community spread of the virus.

The EOHU has been in the yellow category since November 23, after it spent one week in the orange zone. Changes in restrictions between yellow and orange under the province’s colour-coded regime are mostly limited to bar and restaurant opening hours and capacity, as well as cuts to numbers at gyms, fitness centres and cinemas.

Outbreaks

No new cases were reported at the Prescott and Russell Residence as of Friday, but one new death was added to the toll after a new link to the virus was found. The death toll from the outbreak stood at 15 as of Wednesday. Eighty-five of the 109 resident cases had been resolved, as had 67 of the 68 staff cases. Red Cross and EMS teams have left the facility after assisting with staffing.

Casselman testing

The Limoges COVID-19 testing centre at the Calypso water park will return to the EOHU in Casselman on Monday, December 14. The Casselman site, which was originally a drive-thru testing centre, would be turned into an indoor facility during the winter months.

Dr. Roumeliotis said the move would better accommodate both staff and members of the public as colder conditions arrived. The Limoges site will stop offering tests on Friday, December 11 at 12 p.m. Tests at the Casselman site would be appointment only when it began operations at 8 a.m. on December 14.

The region

Of the 221 active cases in the EOHU area on Friday, 115 were reported in Prescott-Russell communities, including:

  • 25 in Hawkesbury;
  • 23 in Russell;
  • 20 in Casselman;
  • 20 in The Nation;
  • 16 in Clarence-Rockland;
  • 7 in Champlain;
  • 4 in Alfred-Plantagenet, and;
  • 0 in East Hawkesbury.