EASTERN ONTARIO — Although current data doesn’t support the measure, claims Eastern Ontario’s medical officer of health, the province is nonetheless upping the region’s pandemic colour category from Yellow-Protect to Orange-Restrict, effective 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 16.
The shift will be reevaluated late next week.
Dr. Paul Roumeliotis attempted to sugar the orange pill in his Nov. 13 media conference, assuring that “not much has changed” for those enterprises affected: gyms, event spaces, restaurants, retailers and the personal care sector. The outright maximum number of people allowed inside an establishment now drops to 50, gym workouts are limited to 90 minutes per person, and patrons must be screened before entering a business. Estheticians must cease those procedures requiring clients to be without a mask, e.g. facials. Theatres are also subject to the 50-person maximum, which applies across the entire building (not individual movie screening rooms).
“There are moderate changes, not that many, but again, this will be reevaluated next week. And I’m hoping that we will go back to the yellow zone within the next week or so,” the doctor said.
He pointed out that old data, from Nov. 9th, was used by the province to slot Eastern Ontario into the orange zone, even as the very latest figures — which show improvement — would have kept the region at yellow. He brought that fact to the province’s attention in a call with the Ministry of Health late Friday afternoon but says he couldn’t persuade those officials to stave off the switch to Orange-Restrict.
“I said, ‘Look, our new data shows we’re yellow,’ and they said, ‘No, we want you to stay in restrict to make sure the trends are downwards, and then we can reevaluate next week.’
“Again, this is not in my control … this is the minister, the government that has announced it today. I think based out of prudence, they want to make sure that we’re going down, in the right direction.”
He admitted to being “a bit frustrated” at the provincial move, adding, “but I do understand it. I would have been even more upset if we had to close things down. We’re not closing things down.”
Eastern Ontario’s medical officer of health also explained that this week’s orange is not the same as last week’s orange: A region doesn’t need to be in as bad of shape to move up the colour hierarchy, under the latest revision of the provincial framework, with the province lowering the threshold for a change in status in terms of case numbers and positivity rates.
The region had 143 active cases yesterday, including four new ones, but was down a net 26 cases from the day before. Much of that reduction has been seen in Prescott and Russell counties, a hot spot within the broader EOHU jurisdiction area.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” the doctor said.