By Kaitlyn Clark
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND—A week after 10 regions were held back from entering Stage 2 of the Province’s reopening plan, the Haldimand Norfolk health district was given the go ahead to proceed effective Friday, June 19, 2020.
“These regions are able to reopen due to positive trends of key public health indicators at the local level, including lower transmission of COVID-19, sufficient hospital health system capacity, local public health capacity to assist with rapid case and contact management, and a significant increase in testing provincially,” said a Provincial release on June 15.
“I’m happy for our local businesses and services that they can participate and get people back to work,” said Mayor Ken Hewitt. “As I’ve always said before, I want to be sure we take precautions and reopen in a safe and responsible way.”
Hewitt said his past concern for the regional approach was that people would travel into regions in a different stage, and that some businesses weren’t being given the same opportunity as others a short distance away.
MPP Toby Barrett said the decision to advance Haldimand Norfolk now was made based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, adding, “I asked for further investigation into the outbreak on the farm and it has been determined the virus has been contained and there is less threat of spread to the community.”
The outbreak at Scotlynn Group in Vittoria, an agricultural enterprise, was noted as a primary factor in the Province’s decision to hold Haldimand Norfolk back last week. As of June 12, 169 migrant workers had tested positive at the farm, along with 18 others “associated with the farm”. Two migrant workers remained in hospital at that time, with one in intensive care.
Six other regions moved on to Stage 2, leaving only three in Stage 1: Peel, Toronto, and Windsor-Essex.
“Thanks to the collective efforts of our frontline health care workers and the people in these regions to stop the spread of COVID-19, more businesses will be able to open their doors and thousands of people will be able to go back to work and put food on the table,” said Premier Doug Ford. “With the public health trends improving day by day across the province, I am hopeful all regions of Ontario will enter Stage 2 very soon. But we must remain on our guard to prevent any potential surge or secondary wave by continuing to follow the sound advice of our public health officials.”
“Opening more regions of Ontario is another positive sign that we are making steady progress in our collective efforts to contain this deadly virus,” said Christine Elliott, Minister of Health. “As many more Ontarians begin to work, shop, and interact with others, it’s never been more important that we continue to follow public health advice, especially physical distancing with anyone outside of our social circle, so we can soon successfully and safely move into Stage 3.”
Stage 1 was to “protect and support”, which aimed to provide immediate monetary relief. Stage 2 is set to “restart” the economy with a staged approach to reopening. Stage 3 is to “recover” and will focus on long-term growth.
As reported last week, Stage 2 allows for additional businesses to reopen, including outdoor dining areas, personal services such as hairdressers, outdoor recreational facilities, drive through venues, and more. Some restrictions are still in place, such as on services that tend to a customer’s face.
“Businesses, organizations, and public spaces permitted to open or increase service during Stage 2 are strongly recommended to review and implement workplace health and safety guidance available and easy-to-access at Ontario.ca/covidsafety,” reads a review of Stage 2 from the Ontario government. “There are more than 100 guidance documents.”
Working remotely and maintaining a 2 metre distance whenever possible is still recommended, along with other precautions such as frequent hand washing and wearing a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge or not possible. Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) stated, “It is important to note that just because a service is permitted to open starting Friday does not mean it must open. Businesses and service providers should only open when they are ready to do so and can meet provincial guidelines.”
Edgewater Gardens resumed visits with residents on June 18 under strict procedures. Up to four residents can have one visitor each for up to 30 minutes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings, allowing for 48 visits to the home per week. Visitors will be screened, will meet residents in the courtyard only, and phsyical distance is to be maintained.
Gatherings of up to 10 were approved for the entire province last week. HNHU issued a reminder on June 11 urging residents to “continue practicing social distancing.”
“Social distancing remains one of the best ways to break the chain of virus transmission,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai.
Ahead of entering Stage 2, the Health Unit revoked two orders put in place early in the pandemic, before the Province issued its own orders. One ordered food premises to close except for takeout and/or delivery, while the other closed personal service settings such as tattoo parlours, barbershops, hair and nail salons, spas, tanning beds, and banquet halls.