Screening guidelines have also changed for educational institutions and childcare centres in Ontario, as two more schools in Prescott-Russell reported COVID-19 cases.
École élémentaire catholique Saint-Joseph in Russell and École élémentaire catholique Saint-Victor in Alfred reported single cases. Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) chief medical officer Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said the cases were believed to have been transmitted from outside the community, rather than in the schools.
Eleven new cases have been reported across the region since Monday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 274. Fifty-seven active cases were reported in EOHU’s area as of Friday afternoon, of which 36 came from Prescott-Russell.
While numbers remained steady locally, the provincial government announced strict guidelines on Friday in an attempt to curb rising cases in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa.
Masks will now be required in all workplaces where social distancing of more than two metres is not possible, on public transport and in shopping centres.
The government also announced new screening guidelines for schools and daycares on Thursday to clarify the symptoms to look for before keeping children from school.
The guidelines now ask that parents keep children home for 24 hours if they have either a runny nose or a headache. If they have both symptoms, the province recommended consulting a healthcare provider or a COVID-19 test before returning to school or child care.
Ontario had previously asked parents to keep children with either symptom at home until they had received a negative test.
Dr. Roumeliotis said fevers, coughing, loss of taste, and shortness of breath remained the most suspicious symptoms of COVID in children, who should be brought home if they presented with those signs. But he said the province did not mandate a negative COVID test or medical certificate to return to school.
“I’m a paediatrician, and I trust parents,” he said. “I think, in most situations, they will be honest. A parent’s attestation would be fine [to return a child to school].”
Waiting times had eased at some Prescott-Russell testing centres during the week, partly due to the pop-up centres, as well as the focus on symptomatic patients.
All centres in the province will stop offering walk-in tests on Sunday, October 4, and will adopt appointment-only tests on Tuesday, October 6.
At his Thursday afternoon teleconference with media, Dr. Roumeliotis said he hoped a slight decrease in the number of new daily cases would continue, but said he would push for the region to adopt any restrictions Ottawa took to stem the rising numbers in that city.
“In a lot of cases we’re mimicking what’s happening in Ottawa,” he said. “So if you’ve got stage 2 in Ottawa and stage 3 literally across the street in some cases, that’s not something we want to see.”