By Haldimand Press Staff
HALDIMAND—As active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario have climbed above 3,000 again and new cases hit up to 478 in one day, statistics not seen provincially since May, the Province has scaled back private gatherings to only 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
The Province noted that indoor and outdoor events cannot be combined, and this new limit applies to “unmonitored social gatherings and organized public events” including parties, dinners, wedding receptions, etc. However, the limit does not apply “to events or gatherings in staffed businesses and facilities because they must already follow specific public health and safety guidelines to minimize risk”, including bars, restaurants, cinemas, banquet halls, religious services, etc.
“Recognizing the primary goal is to minimize human person-to-person interaction, (I think) that reducing the number of people attending unmonitored events … is a good step to try and reduce the transmission of COVID-19,” said local Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai. “I think we have to continue to monitor to see the effects of this intervention on the number of cases. It’s not inconceivable that if cases continue to remain this high or increase there may be other restrictions put in place.”
Nesathurai reiterated his previous statements that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the best way to limit transmission, particularly to those at higher risk of complications, is for everyone to maintain a 2 metre distance, wear a mask when that is not possible, wash your hands frequently, stay home if you’re sick, and avoid large gatherings. Additionally, Premier Doug Ford revealed the first pillar of the Province’s fall COVID-19 preparedness plan on Tuesday, where he stressed the importance of getting a flu shot this fall season to limit illness in the province.
Locally, there have been about 489 cases in Haldimand and Norfolk in total, with about 442 of those now considered recovered and 32 having passed, leaving approximately 15 active cases. Over 5,500 people have been tested between the two counties, with tests now taking about 2 to 5 days to be completed, and the Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit has taken about 10,000 phone calls in relation to the virus.
When asked about schools, in particular his thoughts on bus routes being merged and drivers doing multiple routes to make up for the driver shortage, Nesathurai said, “(With) the operation of the schools and school boards, I do advise them with my perspective. If you send me that question by email, I’m happy to forward it to the Director of Education to have them respond to it. As a general construct, the more people who are interacting with each other the greater the risk of COVID-19 transmission. That can be mitigated in some way by wearing a mask, but it’s the number of interactions between people that increases the risk.”
Meanwhile, the Health Unit is still in court due to their firm restrictions limiting agricultural enterprises in how they house migrant workers. Initially, Nesathurai ordered that only three workers could be housed in a bunkhouse while they self-isolate for two weeks on entry to Canada, regardless of the size of said bunkhouse. Once the mandated isolation is complete, the workers are able to live like any other resident. In June, the Health Services Appeal and Review Board upheld the majority of Nesathurai’s order but said each bunkhouse would be evaluated to determine the appropriate number of workers able to self-isolate in it. The Health Unit now allows farmers to house multiple groups of three workers, so long as each group has a separate entrance, washroom, kitchen, and sleeping space to ensure the groups remain separated from each other during the isolation.
Overall, Nesathurai admitted that determining restrictions is no simple task: “It’s complicated. On one level we have to balance the risk of transmission, and yet at the same time try to maintain a certain level of functioning in our society.”