As of Monday, February 1, in-person learning can resume in the region served by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit. Students attending schools administered by the Upper Canada District School Board, the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, Le Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario and Le Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l'Est ontarien will now be able to return to classrooms. The government agrees with the growing consensus in the medical community that returning students to in-person learning is essential to the wellbeing, development and mental health of children. According to leading medical and scientific experts, including Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, schools are safe places for learning.
The Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry Ontario Provincial Police detachment is investigating a snowmobile accident that left two people injured when the sled they were riding collided with a passenger vehicle on County Road 43 in Alexandria Sunday shortly before 3 p.m. The 20-year-old man driving the snowmobile was transported to hospital with critical injuries. The female passenger, also 20), was transported to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the passenger vehicle was uninjured.
What you can do
The Ontario government has a list of permitted activities during the latest COVIID-19 lockdown.
Every individual shall remain in their place of residence at all times unless leaving their place of residence is necessary for one or more of the following purposes:
Work, school and child care
1. Working or volunteering where the nature of the work or volunteering requires the individual to leave their residence, including when the individual’s employer has determined that the nature of the individual’s work requires attendance at the workplace.
2. Attending school or a post-secondary institution.
3. Attending, obtaining or providing child care.
4. Receiving or providing training or educational services.
Obtaining goods and services
5. Obtaining food, beverages and personal care items.
6. Obtaining goods or services that are necessary for the health or safety of an individual, including health care services and medications.
7. Obtaining goods, obtaining services, or performing such activities as are necessary for the safe operation, maintenance and sanitation of households, businesses, means of transportation or other places.
8. Purchasing or picking up goods through an alternative method of sale, such as curbside pickup, from a business or place that is permitted to provide curbside pickup under the Stage 1 Order.
9. Attending an appointment at a business or place that is permitted to be open by appointment under the Stage 1 Order.
10. Obtaining services from a financial institution or cheque cashing service.
11. Obtaining government services, social services and supports, mental health support services or addictions support services.
12. Delivering goods or providing care or other support or assistance to an individual who requires support or assistance, or receiving such support or assistance, including,
i. providing care for an individual in a congregate care setting, and
ii. accompanying an individual who requires assistance leaving their residence for any purpose permitted under this Order.
13. Taking a child to the child’s parent or guardian or to the parent or guardian’s residence.
14. Taking a member of the individual’s household to any place the member of the household is permitted to go under this Order.
Health, safety and legal purposes
15. Doing anything that is necessary to respond to or avoid an imminent risk to the health or safety of an individual, including,
i. protecting oneself or others from domestic violence,
ii. leaving or assisting someone in leaving unsafe living conditions, and
iii. seeking emergency assistance.
16. Exercising, including,
i. walking or moving around outdoors using an assistive mobility device, or
ii. using an outdoor recreational amenity that is permitted to be open under the Stage 1 Order.
17. Attending a place as required by law or in relation to the administration of justice.
18. Exercising an Aboriginal or treaty right as recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Multiple residences and moving
19. Travelling to another residence of the individual if,
i. the individual intends to be at the residence for less than 24 hours and is attending for one of the purposes set out in this order; or
ii. the individual intends to reside at the residence for at least 14 days.
20. Travelling between the homes of parents, guardians or caregivers, if the individual is under their care.
21. Making arrangements to purchase or sell a residence or to begin or end a residential lease.
22. Moving residences.
23. Travelling to an airport, bus station or train station for the purpose of travelling to a destination that is outside of the Province.
24. Attending a gathering for the purpose of a wedding, a funeral or a religious service, rite or ceremony that is permitted under the Stage 1 Order or making necessary arrangements for the purpose of such a gathering.
25. If the individual lives alone, gathering with the members of a single household.
26. Obtaining goods or services that are necessary for the health or safety of an animal, including obtaining veterinary services.
27. Obtaining animal food or supplies.
28. Doing anything that is necessary to respond to or avoid an imminent risk to the health or safety of an animal, including protecting an animal from suffering abuse.
29. Walking or otherwise exercising an animal.
(2) Despite subsection (1), no person shall attend a business or place that is required to be closed under the Stage 1 Order, except to the extent that temporary access to the closed business or place is permitted under subsection 1 (6) of Schedule 1 to the Stage 1 Order.
(3) This Order does not apply to individuals who are homeless.
(4) If this Order allows an individual to leave their residence to go to a place, it also authorizes them to return to their residence from that place.
(5) The requirement in subsection (1) to remain at an individual’s place of residence does not prevent the individual from accessing outdoor parts of their place of residence, such as a backyard, or accessing indoor or outdoor common areas of the communal residences in which they reside that are open, including lobbies.
(6) For greater certainty, nothing in this Order permits a business or place to be open if it is required to be closed under the Stage 1 Order.
(7) For greater certainty, nothing in this Order permits an individual to gather with other individuals if the gathering is not permitted under the Stage 1 Order.
(8) For greater certainty, individuals may only attend an outdoor organized public event or social gathering that is permitted under the Stage 1 Order for a purpose set out in subsection (1).
The Red Cross will arrive Monday at the Lancaster Long-Term Care facility, where six residents have died due to COVID-19, 34 other residents along with ten staff members have contracted the disease. The affected staff members are self-isolating at home, executive director Nicole Gurnsey said in a memo issued Thursday. Residents remain isolated to their rooms, are receiving in-room meal service, and are on contact droplet precautions, she added. “We had the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Labour here on Monday, and they were very pleased with the infection prevention and control measures that we have in place, and the home did not receive any further direction from them,” the executive director said.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has announced that the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines has arrived in the EOHU region.
In accordance with the Ontario government’s mandate for the immunization of priority populations, the vaccines will be administered to residents, staff and essential caregivers in long-term care (LTC) homes starting January 13.
Local EMS paramedics and public health nurses from the EOHU will administer the vaccines within the LTC homes. “This is excellent news for our region,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health.
“Vaccinating residents, staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes will help protect our most vulnerable residents, who have been the most harshly affected by the spread of COVID-19.”
The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines are Pfizer vaccines, however, it is expected that Moderna vaccines will also arrive in the EOHU region within the coming weeks.
Due to a limited supply of vaccines, the Ontario government’s Phase 1 roll-out of the vaccine prioritizes individuals who are at higher risk of being exposed to COVID-19 or of developing a severe illness or dying from COVID. Vaccinations will begin with residents, staff and essential caregivers at long-term care homes and retirement homes, before moving on to other groups as more vaccine stock arrives in the region. Vaccine delivery is expected to accelerate over the coming months.
As vaccine stock increases, vaccination will expand to more population groups. It is anticipated that by this fall (or sooner), anyone who wants a vaccine will have access to one.
The EOHU will notify the public as the vaccine becomes available to different population groups. The EOHU urges residents to continue following public health measures throughout the coming months.
“While the arrival of the vaccine in our region is a great first step towards protecting our community, the reality is that it will be a number of months before the vaccine is available to everyone who wants it. In the meantime, we are seeing COVID-19 infections rapidly increasing in our area and across the country,” says Dr. Roumeliotis. “We must continue to maintain public health measures like masking, physical distancing and proper hand washing to protect our community until enough of our population has been immunized and the pandemic is brought under control.”
New restrictions are being imposed by the Ontario government in response to a doubling in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, “the real and looming threat of the collapse of the province's hospital system and alarming risks posed to long-term care homes as a result of high COVID-19 transmission rates.’ Effective January 14, the government is issuing a stay-at-home order requiring everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work. This order and other new and existing public health restrictions are aimed at limiting people's mobility and reducing the number of daily contacts with those outside an immediate household. In addition to limiting outings to essential trips, all businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home. Outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions. Individuals are required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. Wearing a mask or face covering is now recommended outdoors when you can't physically distance more than two metres. All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery. Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction.
Hospital appeals for help
As Cornwall Community Hospital struggles to cope with a rise in COVID-19 cases, the institution has issued an appeal to the public -- community action is required to stop the case count from rising further to avoid a disruption in services.
“We need everyone in this community to take all measures to stop the spread of COVID-19”, says CEO Jeanette Despatie. “The Ontario health system, including our local hospital, is nearing full capacity.”
Hospital capacity is being monitored daily, and some elective surgeries will be postponed, making beds available for emergency cases. Every effort is being made to maintain all day surgeries, clinics and diagnostic services, but if recent trends continue, cancellations may occur.
“Our community can help us manage this crisis by following Public Health guidelines on physical distancing, limiting interactions, handwashing and masking,” says Despatie. “There is hope with the vaccine’s development, but our essential health care workers in Cornwall have not been vaccinated and we must protect them by limiting the spread.”
Though our community was spared the level of transmission seen in urban markets during wave one, frontline physicians and staff are managing a spike in COVID-19 cases now that January is here.
“The next few weeks are terribly worrisome; we need everyone to understand that what is happening in Toronto and Windsor can happen here if a broader effort to slow transmission is not met,” says Dr. Lorne Scharf, Chief of Staff and emergency physician at CCH. “The entire system is being stretched. Provincially, there is not enough specialized staff to meet demand as numbers continue to soar.”
Cornwall Hospital is operating at surge capacity and numbers of COVID-19 cases are growing daily. The Critical Care Unit (CCU) has been challenged with high volumes over the last few weeks. CCH remains safe for patients to access care, but constraints created by the pandemic place undue pressure on physicians, staff, and the facility.
“Despite perceptions that this problem is a greater concern for larger cities across our province, the COVID-19 patients we are seeing at CCH are very sick,” says Ms. Despatie. “Several require extended stays in critical care. We ask local citizens to take precautions and stay safe.”
The first COVID-19 vaccinations in Eastern Ontario are scheduled to begin next week, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis says. The first delivery of 1,200 doses will be administered in long-term care facilities, with the vaccination of the most vulnerable people expected to be completed by the end of the month. Meanwhile, the number of positive cases in Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry, Prescott-Russell and the northern part of Akwesasne has increased to 511. Six patients are in hospital; none is in intensive care.
A 28-day province-wide shutdown in Ontario will go into effect December 26 in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. The new rules restrict indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household. The province is banning in-person shopping in most retail settings; curbside pickup and delivery can continue. Discount and big box retailers selling groceries will be limited to 25 per cent capacity for in-store shopping. Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies, will continue to operate at 50 per cent capacity for in-store shopping. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take out, drive-through, and delivery only. All Ontarians are advised to stay home as much as possible with trips outside the home limited to necessities such as food, medication, medical appointments, or supporting vulnerable community members. Employers in all industries should make every effort to allow employees to work from home. The winter break will be extended for schools. Elementary school students can return to in-person learning January 11, 2021, while secondary school students will continue learning remotely until January 25, at which point they may resume in-person learning.
In order to further limit the number of COVID-19 infections in the region, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) has issued a new order for multidepartment retail and grocery stores.
The order limits crowding and ensures adequate physical distancing between shoppers in large retail and grocery stores in the eastern counties.
The EOHU issued the order in response to multiple, repeated complaints from the public about large multidepartment retailers not having adequate line or crowd control. The EOHU has also noted that within multidepartment stores many people tend to crowd in one department disproportionately (mostly grocery and pharmacy sections). Although overall store capacity limits may be respected, when most customers are shopping in one department at the same time, it is no longer possible to maintain the required physical distancing.
“With holiday shopping, we’re seeing large crowds in many stores, which increases the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at this critical time,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the EOHU. “I have issued this Order to protect employees, business patrons and the broader community. Putting measures in place to prevent spread of COVID-19 also protects our local businesses by helping us avoid business closures – a last resort to control the spread of the virus.”
The new order requires multidepartment retail and grocery stores to implement the following measures:
- Ensure that a maximum number of patrons is established and clearly marked for each department, and that departments are staffed to ensure that the total number of patrons permitted per department is respected. Overall store capacity limits must be respected.
- Post signs stating the total number of patrons permitted per department.
- For clarity, high traffic departments in multidepartment stores such as grocery and pharmacy departments must have their own capacity limits.
- The following additional measures must also be implemented to ensure crowd control:
- Ensure that the flow of patrons is enforced and that patrons congregating together or walking against the directions of the arrows are reminded to abide by the rules.
- Calculate the maximum number of patrons permitted in each department or section based on the square footage available for patrons (available footage excludes areas occupied by shelves, cash registers, etc.).
- Calculate the maximum number of patrons permitted in each department or section based on the availability of staff to control the traffic and ensure that the implemented measures are enforced.
- Control lineups both inside and outside the store to ensure physical distancing of at least 2 metres is maintained, and to ensure the total number of patrons in any given department or section is not exceeded because of lined up patrons.
The EOHU, in collaboration with other enforcement agencies, will be increasing inspections of local businesses to ensure compliance with the new order and other public health requirements aimed at protecting businesses, employees and the public.
To learn more about the new Order, consult the official document on the EOHU’s website. For more information about COVID-19, including business-specific requirements, visit the health unit’s website at EOHU.ca/coronavirus and Ontario’s website at https://covid-19.ontario.ca.