District figures should lead province to consider move next week, medical officer of health says
THUNDER BAY – The continued propagation of COVID-19 in Thunder Bay, it is likely that the province will consider moving the district to the orange zone of its COVID-19 Intervention setting, says medical officer of health Dr. Janet DeMille.
The move would tighten the rules slightly for establishments like bars and restaurants, but leave most restrictions in place in the current yellow zone, such as limits on gatherings, unchanged.
“I think when you look at it from a numbers perspective, our indicators could very well be at the orange level,” DeMille said Monday. “They were at this level last week, but things were improving. Recent events may have held back this improvement. ”
There were 93 active cases in the district on Monday, with 75 new cases announced just last week. More than 50 of them are associated with an outbreak in Southbridge Roseview long-term care home, which has resulted in the deaths of two residents in recent days.
DeMille said she would wait to assess the situation later this week before deciding whether or not to recommend the switch to orange to the provincial cabinet, which ultimately made the call based on advice from the chief medical officer of health , Dr. David Williams.
“We will probably be considered to progress,” DeMille said, noting data as late as Thursday could influence the decision.
The change would take effect on Dec. 7 at the earliest. Cabinet reviews the situation in 34 public health units across the province every Friday, and any changes are implemented the following Monday.
The province’s framework sets out several metrics that guide the decision, many of Thunder Bay looking sure to meet or exceed, based on current numbers.
Indicators in the orange zone include a weekly incidence rate of 25 to 39.9 new cases per 100,000 people, a test positivity rate of 1.3 to 2.4%, and repeated or increasing outbreaks. Factors such as the capacity of the health system are also taken into account.
The most recent weekly figures released by the local health unit, Nov. 15-21, showed the Thunder Bay District had an incidence rate of 49.4 and a positivity rate of 1.8.
The number of cases has steadily increased since then. DeMille said then that much of this increase could be attributed to Southbridge Roseview epidemic, the general trend is worrying.
“I’m definitely worried that we haven’t seen the improvement that I would have liked to see,” she said. “Some of it is directly related to this particular outbreak… but we’ve been pretty high for a number of weeks now.”
“This is something we don’t want to lose control of – better to take action [in place] to try to slow things down, and maybe now is a good time to do it. ”
A switch to orange, however, would only make minor changes to current public health restrictions. There would be no change to the boundaries of gatherings, public events or religious services.
Attendance would be limited to 50 at many indoor facilities, including bars and restaurants, and those establishments would be required to close at 10 p.m., rather than midnight, and stop serving alcohol at 9 p.m.
Strip clubs would be required to close or operate as a bar.
Customer screening would also be a new requirement for many businesses, including in the retail industry.