Back to school online, collection limits reduced amid recent COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario
Faced with the skyrocketing number of COVID-19 cases of the omicron variant, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a series of temporary public health restrictions on Monday, January 3. There are new restrictions on social gatherings, indoor restaurants are closed, and students will be studying at home again for a few weeks.
Locally, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is advising the public that the new measures will take effect Jan. 5 at 12:01 a.m. in the EOHU region and across Ontario. The entire province is temporarily reverting to a modified Stage 2 of the Roadmap for the reopening of the province. All regions of the province will remain in Stage 2 for at least 21 days (until January 26, 2022), subject to trends in public health and health system indicators.
According to the Ontario government, the rapid increase in Omicron cases could soon number in the hundreds of thousands and could overload the province’s hospital capacity if no further action is taken to curb transmission.
“As in other areas of the province, the BSEO region has seen a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks,” said BSEO Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis.
There were 2,244 active cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, January 3 among residents of the BSEO territory. Nine people were hospitalized and two people were in intensive care due to COVID-19.
As of January 3, the largest number of active COVID-19 cases under the jurisdiction of the BSEO were in Cornwall, where there were 725 cases. South Stormont had 195 active cases and Clarence-Rockland had 194 active cases.
In the eastern part of Prescott and Russell counties, the three municipalities with the most active cases of COVID-19 as of January 3 were Hawkesbury with 158 active cases, 99 cases in Champlain Township and 89 cases in Alfred and Plantagenet.
Students resume distance education from January 5 to 17
Among the measures that will be in effect from January 5, a temporary return to online learning for students, until at least January 17. frontline workers.
School buildings will be permitted to open for childcare operations, including emergency childcare, in order to provide in-person instruction to students with special needs who cannot be accommodated remotely and to the staff who are unable to provide quality home education.
Gather the Limits
Social gatherings will be limited to five people indoors and 10 people outdoors. Public events organized will be limited to five people inside.
Work at home
Businesses and organizations are required to ensure that employees work remotely, unless the nature of their job requires them to be on-site.
Closure of the indoor dining room
Meals inside restaurants, bars and other catering establishments will not be allowed.
Restricted al fresco dining, take-out, drive-thru, and delivery are permitted.
Reduced capacity of certain businesses, events and places of worship
50% capacity restrictions will be in place for retail businesses (including shopping malls), some personal care services (with additional restrictions) and libraries. In addition, weddings, funerals and religious services, rites and ceremonies indoors will be limited to 50% of the capacity of the hall. Outside services will be limited to the number of people who can maintain a physical distance of two meters.
Business and service closures
The following services and settings will be temporarily closed:
- Indoor meeting and event spaces with limited exceptions (outdoor spaces may remain open with restrictions)
- Indoor concert halls, theaters, cinemas; rehearsals and recorded performances permitted with restrictions
- Indoor sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gymnasiums
- Museums, galleries, zoos, science centers, monuments, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, amusement parks and water parks, tour and guide services and fairs, rural exhibitions and festivals (open-air establishments allowed to open with restrictions and with spectator occupancy, where applicable, limited to 50 percent of capacity)
- Indoor horse racing tracks, car racing tracks and other similar venues
The restrictions announced on January 3 followed a series of measures announced on December 31 that involved changes in testing, isolation periods and booster vaccinations for residents of long-term care facilities.
Changes to examination guidelines
- Ontario is changing its strategy to make publicly funded PCR testing only available to people at high risk who are symptomatic and / or at risk of serious illness from COVID-19. People with a positive rapid antigen test result will no longer have to undergo a PCR or rapid molecular test to confirm their COVID status. Health units will no longer conduct contact tracing and case management for a positive case in a low risk environment.
Changes to the isolation period
- Fully vaccinated people who have COVID-19, as well as children under 12, should self-isolate for 5 days from the onset of symptoms. Members of their household must also self-isolate for 5 days. Contacts outside the affected household should monitor themselves for symptoms for 10 days.
- Unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or immunocompromised people should self-isolate for 10 days.
- Staff working in high-risk healthcare settings may return to work after 10 days from the date of diagnosis, or after seven days with a negative PCR or rapid antigen test result.
Fourth dose for long-term care residents
- Fourth doses of mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) are available to all residents of long-term care homes, retirement homes and other collective care facilities. The province is also requiring third doses for all staff, students, volunteers, caregivers and support workers in collective care facilities. Those currently eligible for a booster must receive their third dose by January 28, 2022. When general visitors are re-authorized within these settings, they will also need to provide proof of a booster dose.
On December 31, Roumeliotis said that 60% of people aged 70 and over in BSEO territory received a third dose.
All residents of Ontario aged 18 and over are eligible to receive a third COVID-19 vaccine booster. To make an appointment through your local public health unit, call 1-833-943-3900 or go to https://covid19.ontariohealth.ca/
Booster vaccinations are also offered by local medical offices and pharmacies in Alexandria, Alfred, Bourget, Casselman, Embrun, Hawkesbury (Asselin Independent, Pharmasave, Shoppers Drug Mart, Guardian), Limoges, Plantagenet, Russell, St- Isidore and Vankleek Colline. Contact each pharmacy to make an appointment.