Eastern Ontario Health Unit recorded 98 new cases over the weekend, 20 of which came from Prescott-Russell.
Eastern Ontario Health Unit recorded 98 new cases over the weekend, 20 of which came from Prescott-Russell.

Slight drop in case rate on first stay-at-home weekend

Stephen Jeffery
EAP
The region’s seven-day average of new COVID cases has started to fall after a record high at the start of the month, but remains well above lockdown thresholds.

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit recorded 98 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, less than the 166 recorded on the previous Saturday and Sunday. The highest number of cases were recorded in Cornwall, which accounted for 268 of the region’s 638 active cases on Monday.

Prescott and Russell, which for much of 2020 had the highest number and rate of cases in the EOHU area, recorded 20 new cases over the weekend. It’s seven day rolling average of cases was 56.4 people per 100,000, the lowest rate in the region. Cornwall’s rolling average was 209.4 people per 100,000, while the EOHU as a whole had a rolling average of 98.2.

EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said the numbers were headed in the right direction, but noted that the number of active cases remained high. “It’s reassuring that we’re seeing a trend here that’s leveling off, and we’re seeing an overall trend downward for all [regions in the EOHU],” he said. “Let’s hope we can move forward in that direction.”

Outside long term care outbreaks, Dr. Roumeliotis said most of the local cases had been acquired from members of the same household, who had in turn picked up the virus from workplaces or close community contacts. He asked people to remember to follow the public health guidelines to avoid the spread.

“It could be in a workplace, it could be in a friend’s house, wherever, if you do not take the precautions, you or somebody else will get infected, and that individual or yourself will go home and infect others,” he said. “That’s what’s happening. The gap is there when people get close with people who are outside their household.”

Outbreaks

COVID-19 outbreaks continued at several long term care and retirement facilities over the weekend, but most cases were confined to staff members. Affected facilities in Prescott-Russell included Foyer St-Viateur Nursing Home in Limoges, Villa St-Albert, Caressant Care Nursing Home in Bourget, Heritage Lodge in Vankleek Hill, and Foyer St Jacques Nursing Home in Embrun.

Stay at home order

Ontario’s stay-at-home order came into effect last Thursday, and would continue for at least 28 days. Under the order, residents were asked to stay home, except for essential purposes such as work, exercise, and to pick up groceries or medication. The government issued a warning about the changes via smartphones using the Alert Ready program.

The announcement of the order, as well as a list of exemptions under which people could leave their houses, raised questions about enforcement. Border communities such as Hawkesbury were also affected by differences between the stay at home order and Quebec’s 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MPP Amanda Simard said she had received questions from constituents confused about the new rules. The Liberal MPP said more clarity about the order was needed, and questioned whether the measures would be enough to curb the spread of the virus.

“If you’re going to enforce this order, we need to be able to say what is and isn’t essential,” she said. “I’ve been getting tonnes of messages from members of the community asking for clarification. We’ve received mixed messages.”

In response to questions about the order’s exemptions, Premier Doug Ford said the message was simple. “There's no confusion, it's very simple: Stay home,” he said. “If you're questioning, ‘should I go out,’ you’ve got the answer: stay home.”  

The region

Of the 638 active cases in the EOHU area on Monday, 182 were in Prescott-Russell. Local case numbers included 54 in Clarence-Rockland, 37 in Russell, 35 in Alfred-Plantagenet, 16 in Champlain, 15 in The Nation, 13 in Casselman, 11 in Hawkesbury, and one in East Hawkesbury.