MANITOULIN—Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD)’s catchment area, which includes the City of Greater Sudbury, Sudbury District and Manitoulin District, is now in the yellow or “protect” category of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework amidst a recent surge in cases, including a new case in the District of Manitoulin. This individual, according to the health unit, is following public health directives and self-isolating.
“Our case counts are at an all-time high with 42 of our 204 total cases reported in the last week alone,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer of health with PHSD. “These numbers, combined with how stretched our public health and health care systems are, mean that stronger protection measures are needed.”
Dr. Sutcliffe offered a statistic to highlight the current threat of community spread—for each case, there are an average of 12 other people who are at high risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.
At this time, more than any time before, it is crucial that everyone in the district remains committed to public health prevention measures and takes actions to reduce community transmission, she said.
Underscoring this shift is PHSD’s move from the green “prevent” category to the yellow “protect” portion of Ontario’s new colour-coded COVID-19 response framework, effective this past Monday, November 16.
Under the new model, there are five colours: green, yellow, orange, red and grey, in escalating order of severity up to a full lockdown.
PHSD was formerly under the green category before Monday. The green category matched the most-permissive “stage three” of Ontario’s old reopening framework before the colour model took over on November 7.
Many restrictions are the same between the green and yellow categories. The following is a summary of the comparison between this region’s former green status and its new yellow status.
Restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments must close at midnight, only sell alcohol between 9 am and 11 pm, must capture contact info for anyone dining on-site, cap seating groups to no more than six, turn music down to below normal conversation level and have a safety plan upon request.
Sports, recreational and fitness facilities will see capacity limits for classes dropped from 50 to 10 people indoors and from 100 to 25 outdoors. Capacity limits for those exercising in open indoor areas will stay the same at 50, but anyone taking part in the above activities must be spaced three metres apart from fellow patrons. Each facility has to gather contact info from patrons and take attendance for team sports; entry will be only allowed by reservation and the facilities must also have a safety plan at the ready.
Meetings and event spaces face identical additional restrictions to restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, as outlined above.
Retail outlets are also required to keep music levels below that of normal conversation and all shopping malls must have a safety plan available upon request.
Personal care services (except for oxygen bars, steam rooms, saunas and whirlpools, which remain closed) must gather contact information and have a safety plan on request.
Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments follow all of the same restrictions as restaurants and bars, except that gaming places are allowed to be open past midnight.
For cinemas, drive-ins are still allowed but the same liquor, contact tracing and safety plan constraints apply as in restaurants and bars in the yellow zone. The same model also applies to performing arts facilities.
Dr. Sutcliffe stressed that everyone’s individual actions can determine the future of this virus. The level of community spread entirely depends on how much care they take in their own lives to keep their friends, family, community and loved ones safe.
Key points from the medical officer of health included only leaving home for school, work or essential trips like medical appointments, grocery or prescription runs. She urged people to work from home and only interact with people in their household.
If anyone develops any symptoms, however mild, they should stay home. Everyone should wear a face covering in public whenever they may come within two metres of someone else.
Only spend time in open public spaces where physical distancing is possible, don’t travel beyond one’s local area and practice frequent hand washing or sanitization. Always cover a cough into a sleeve.
Gathering restrictions are still at 10 indoors and 25 outdoors in informal social gatherings, and 50 indoors and 100 outdoors for public events (except in locations with tougher restrictions as outlined above), though the health unit strongly discourages these from taking place.
The second surge is proving to be more disruptive across Canada.
On November 10, PHSD declared an outbreak from a Halloween party in Sudbury. Four days later, it warned that anyone who visited Foothill Farm Service, a farm equipment garage in Massey, was at a high-risk of COVID-19 exposure.
It urged anyone who attended the Massey business between November 4 and 6 and anyone who attended the Sudbury party to immediately self-isolate and contact public health.
PHSD publicly shared those two high-risk exposures because they each affected so many people that health staff could not complete contact tracing.
Also on November 14, PHSD announced two new cases in the City of Greater Sudbury and a new case in the District of Manitoulin, the sixth case confirmed in this district since the start of the pandemic.
PHSD continues to closely watch for cases in schools. If a school has more than two cases within 14 days and evidence suggests the spread happened at school, it will be declared an outbreak. As of this past Monday, November 16, PHSD is no longer posting announcements about individual positive cases, except when a matter is of urgent public concern. It will share data about the pandemic at 4 pm every day, as well as at 10:30 am each weekday.
The health unit is also shifting to issue a weekly recap of key new developments and important information for the public.
More information about PHSD’s COVID-19 efforts is available at phsd.ca/COVID-19 or by calling 705-522-9200.