By Kaitlyn Clark
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND—The stay-at-home order ended for Haldimand Norfolk on February 16, 2021 as the region moved into the Orange – Restrict category of the Province’s colour coded framework.
A total of 27 regions moved into this framework that day based on a general improvement of key indicators, including lower transmission, improving hospital capacity, and available public health capacity for rapid case and contact management.
Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt believes the full lockdown was imposed in large part due to factors in Ontario’s cities, asserting a full shutdown “may not have been needed” locally.
“We’re excited that we’re able to reopen. We’ve always felt that we’ve done a good job as a community to manage the virus and contain it,” said Hewitt. “We’re encouraging people for where they can and when they can to support their businesses in the community. It’s good news and hopefully we’ll continue to improve to a point where we’re able to fully reopen on all capacities.”
Local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai asked residents to keep being careful: “I want to take the opportunity to remind community members to remain vigilant against the spread of the virus. As Medical Officer of Health, the best advice I can give is to stay at home as much as possible, wear a mask when you must go out, avoid close contact with anyone you don’t live with, and wash your hands frequently. While limited vaccinations have taken place … these basic public health practices continue to play a key role in our response to COVID-19. Together, we can continue to reduce the number of new COVID-19 cases in our community and save the lives of those most vulnerable to the virus.”
Haldimand CAO Craig Manley echoed Nesathurai, stating that the reopening is “welcome news … but it doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.”
“We see a light at the end of the tunnel, but it is important to continue working together and making choices that are in the best interest of our community – with the end goal of getting back to ‘normal’,” Manley added. “Haldimand County remains committed to protecting the safety of the community and staff as the Province gradually reopens.”
County staff will continue working closely with public health. The Administration Building is expected to reopen February 22.
Beginning the week of February 22, three of Haldimand County’s Arenas (two pads at Caledonia’s HCCC and one each in Dunnville and Hagersville) will reopen for minor sports programming including hockey, figure skating, and ringette. The Cayuga Memorial Arena will remain closed for all recreation and the ice will be removed as the County prepares the facility to become a community vaccination centre in the coming weeks.
Updates related to municipal services will be shared with the community as required and continue to be posted regularly at HaldimandCounty.ca/COVID-19.
There are many changes under ‘orange’ stage rules, including the reopening of indoor dining, gyms, and personal care services with restrictions and capacity limits. More information and sector-specific guidelines for reopening businesses within the ‘orange’ stage are available on the Province of Ontario’s website at ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open.
If you have questions about what will be open or impacts to your business or employment, call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.
In surrounding health units, Brant County Health Unit is also in Orange – Restrict, Southwestern Public Health is in Red – Control, and Niagara Region Public Health is in Grey – Lockdown.
Ontario is currently in Phase One of its COVID-19 vaccination program, including residents and staff of congregate seniors homes, health care workers, and Indigenous adults. As of press time approximately 187,000 people had received both doses of the vaccine.
Phase Two is set to begin in March and aims to vaccinate 8.5 million people. It will begin with those 80-plus and decrease in five-year increments; according to Health Canada, nearly 70% of deaths from COVID-19 have been people aged 80 and over. Other priority groups will include congregate settings not covered in the first phase (i.e. shelters, community living homes); frontline essential workers (i.e. first responders, education staff, etc.); people with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers; and other populations at risk.
The third and final phase of the vaccine rollout for the remaining general population is expected to begin in August, dependent on the availability of vaccines.
Ontario is currently developing a web portal for booking vaccine appointments. It is expected to be fully operational around the end of February to beginning of March. There will also a phone line to call for those who may be unable to book online.