By Kaitlyn Clark
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND—Premier Doug Ford announced Monday, July 13, 2020 that 24 of Ontario’s 34 health districts would be moving on to Stage 3 of the Province’s reopening plan. As with Stage 2, Haldimand Norfolk was again among the 10 regions to be held back.
“These regions entered Stage 2 later on, so we need just a little more time,” Ford said. “I want the people in these regions to know we won’t leave anyone behind. We will keep working until every part of this province gets to Stage 3.”
MPP Toby Barrett said, “The decision makers that advise the Premier indicated that they analyze four weeks of data and they don’t have that yet because we went into Stage 2 later.”
When held back from entering Stage 2 in mid-June, Haldimand Norfolk remained in Stage 1 for one additional week. At that time, Barrett said that a “variety of factors” were considered, but that the “bottom line is the numbers”, particularly the outbreak that occurred just before on a Vittoria farm. However, that outbreak has since been declared over and, as of press time, Haldimand had reported no new cases for over two weeks. As a whole, Ontario has seen COVID-19 numbers declining over the last five weeks, there were five times as many people being treated in hospital for COVID-19 at the beginning of June compared to now, and nearly 89% of cases had been resolved as of June 13.
“We expect to be able to move into the next stage shortly, so long as we continue to see few new daily cases of COVID-19 in the community,” said Kristal Chopp, Norfolk Mayor and Chair of the Haldimand Norfolk Board of Health, in a press release from the Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit. The release stated, “It is anticipated that the Province will re-evaluate the status of Haldimand and Norfolk next Monday.”
Barrett however believes it’s too soon to say when Haldimand Norfolk will enter Stage 3: “I’m not in a position to make a prediction. A number of people are making the assumption it would likely be soon, but there are so many unknowns…. The data is the data and you really can’t make an assessment until that data is in.”
“While in Dunnville, Jarvis, and Hagersville delivering masks I had a chance to speak with people, from a distance of course. I found people locally here have made it clear to me they are erring on the side of caution,” said Barrett. He added that about 90% of businesses can already be open in Stage 2, and he believes, “We’re all doing our part to support our local businesses.”
“The most important thing for our local businesses is the safety of their customers, their staff, and the general public,” he added.
The Province claims that “nearly all businesses and public spaces” can reopen in Stage 3, although safety measures and some restrictions remain in place. Movie theatres, gyms, fitness studios, and indoor dining are among the businesses permitted to open in Stage 3.
As part of the Stage 3 reopening, Ontario will be increasing gathering limits for those regions entering the next stage to the following:
- Indoor gathering limit maximum of 50 people;
- Outdoor gathering limit maximum of 100 people;
- Gathering limits are subject to physical distancing requirements to maintain 2 metres.
Work colleagues, including performers and crews, do not count toward gathering limits, according to the Province. Additionally, as of July 27, child care centres can operate with cohorts of 15 children, up from the current cap of 10.
Remaining in Stage 2, Haldimand and Norfolk continues to have a gathering limit of 10, regardless of being indoors or outdoors. Social circles, which allow for greater physical contact among a set group, is also being maintained at a maximum of 10 people, regardless of the stage the region is in.
Ford stated in his announcement that they are continuing to plan for the 2020-21 school year: “I want to see every child in Ontario back to school full time this September. This is what we’re working towards … but we will not take unnecessary risks with our children and that’s why we need a plan.”
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, public health ex-
perts, and other officials have advised the following, high-risk places and activities are not yet safe to open, even if a region has entered Stage 3, due to the likelihood of large crowds congregating, difficulties with physical distancing, or challenges maintaining the proper sanitation required:
- Amusement parks and water parks;
- Buffet-style food services;
- Overnight stays at camps for children;
- Dancing at restaurants and bars, other than by performers hired by the establishment following specific requirements;
- Private karaoke rooms;
- Prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports;
- Saunas, steam rooms, bath houses, and oxygen bars;
- Table games at casinos and gaming establishments.
The government has released over 170 guidance resources for employers in various sectors to keep workers and customers safe for those who are reopening. Those businesses not able to open or resume full activities due to Stage 3 restrictions are invited to visit Ontario.ca/reopen to submit a reopening proposal.
Barrett and Chopp commended the community for the efforts made so far to control the spread of COVID-19, and also urged some caution in moving ahead.
“While we’re all very much looking forward to seeing more of our businesses permitted to reopen, this doesn’t mean that the pandemic is over. We must continue to be vigilant against the spread of the virus and avoid undoing all the hard work we’ve done over the last four months,” said Chopp. “Our residents deserve a huge thanks for the sacrifices they’ve made in the battle against COVID-19. We would not be preparing to open up more businesses and returning to more normal circumstances without their efforts.”
Ford echoed Chopp’s statements: “Our success in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and getting Ontario to a place where we are ready to reopen most of the province is a testament to the hard work of business owners, individuals, and families right across the province. So many have stepped up and played by the rules, demonstrating that we can restart our economy safely and responsibly.”
“Regardless of the stage Haldimand and Norfolk are in, residents are asked to remain vigilant against the spread of COVID-19 by following all public health guidance,” said the HNHU release, “including practising social distancing, washing hands frequently, and avoiding situations where keeping distance would be difficult.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott also noted wearing face coverings, particularly in situations when social distancing is difficult, as a health measure to take. Finance Minister Rod Phillips urged people to “act responsibly” in order to “avoid taking a step backwards”.
Ford also urged some caution in moving forward: “Small actions can make a big difference. Now more than ever, we must continue to follow the public health advice to preserve the progress we have made together.”
Updates continue to be provided at hnhu.org/covid-19.
July 15, 2020 – Haldimand Norfolk has one new additional case
On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, after press time, the total positive cases for Haldimand Norfolk increased by one. According to the updated disease trend chart, this person appears to have been tested on July 6.