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The COVID REPORT – tougher measures in Sudbury/Manitoulin districts, two COVID deaths, more cases in schools and more

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New restrictions announced for Sudbury and Manitoulin districts

Persistently high and growing COVID-19 case rates have prompted Public Health Sudbury & Districts’ Medical Officer of Health to expand the legally enforceable Instructions currently in place locally under the provincial Reopening Ontario Act. New protective measures are being implemented throughout the agency’s service area and those currently in force in Greater Sudbury are being expanded to reach across the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts.

“We are at a point where we need to double down on the basics like masking, physical distancing, and vaccination. But local circumstances also mean that we also need some new rules, rolling back some relaxed measures, to further protect people who are unvaccinated, especially kids,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts. “I am announcing new protective measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and do our best to ensure we are as prepared as we can be for the highly transmissible Omicron variant,” added Dr. Sutcliffe.

Following a review of trends and data—and considering concerns about the Omicron variant and the socializing that occurs with the holiday season—Dr. Sutcliffe, with the support of the provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health, is requiring that the following measures be in place across Greater Sudbury, Manitoulin District, and Sudbury District, effective Saturday, December 11, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. The new Instructions expand the measures currently in place for the City of Greater Sudbury to apply across the agency’s services area, including:

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  • Reinstated capacity limits and physical distancing requirements were relaxed by the province in early fall.
  • Strengthened masking requirements at organized public events.
  • Strengthened proof of vaccination requirements for those participating in organized sports at indoor facilities.
  • Reinstated the former requirement that people work remotely (for example from home) unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site at the workplace.

These new Instructions also add new protections as follows:

  • Businesses and organizations that are open must limit the size of social gatherings and organized public events in their premises and venues to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
  • Proof of vaccination requirements (for those 12 years of age and over) for all non-essential businesses and organizations for which it is currently voluntary (opt-in) under the Step 3 Rules while maintaining capacity limits. This will apply, for example, to personal care services, indoor recreational amenities, and museums, galleries, and science centres, among others. A full list of settings is available in the detailed technical brief (PDF). This measure will not be in effect until Wednesday, December 15, 2021, at 12:01 a.m.
  • Strengthened requirements for basic public health measures across sectors including masking, physical distancing, active screening, and contact tracing. For example, masks will be required outdoors in places where people cannot maintain physical distance of at least 2 metres from those not part of their households (subject to exemptions for mask use).
  • Strengthened requirements for safety plans for all businesses and organizations, including detail for what these must contain. This includes, for example, conducting and documenting regular reviews of the plan with workers.
  • Food and drink establishments will be required to reimplement some protections from Step 2, including no buffets and ensuring that patrons generally remain seated (except when dancing in establishments where that is permitted).
  • In facilities used for indoor sports and recreational fitness activities, and for personal physical fitness trainers:
  • Returning to a physical distancing requirement of 3 metres (instead of 2 metres) for some activities.
  • Establishing new protections to enhance the safety of the facility, for example, in washrooms and change rooms.
  • Team sports or games that may result in personal contact must not be practised or played at the facility, indoors or outdoors, unless the sport or game has been modified to avoid personal contact. Limited exceptions apply to professional and elite sports leagues or associations. School-related extra-curricular team sports or games are subject to separate measures previously communicated.
  • Requiring shopping malls to reduce the volume levels of music and prevent line ups and congregating unless a physical distance of 2 metres is maintained.
  • For those who cannot work remotely, strengthened workplace health and safety measures, for example, requirements for virtual meetings and staggered breaks to the fullest extent possible.

Case rates continue to climb in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts. On December 4, 2021, Public Health Sudbury & Districts surpassed a milestone of 4,000 COVID-19 cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic, less than one month after we reached the previous milestone of 3000 cases. Despite the pandemic being in its 21st month, more than one quarter (26%) of total cases have been reported in just the last 30 days. With record numbers of cases currently active and as COVID-19 infections continue to rise, new hospitalizations and the need for ICU admissions would be expected to follow, not only impacting community members but our health care system as well. Public Health is asking everyone to understand the seriousness of this risk to all and do whatever is possible to help reverse the current COVID-19 case trends. Public Health is doing its best to ensure additional restrictions will reduce transmission, protect in-person learning, and safeguard health and the health care system.

In addition to the Instructions issued under the Reopening Ontario Act, the Medical Officer of Health is strongly recommending that area residents follow these additional measures:

  • Avoid non-essential travel, including holiday travel plans. If you do decide to travel, make it as safe as possible by getting vaccinated, masking, visiting outdoors or in well-ventilated areas, and staying home if even mildly unwell.
  • Take steps to make social gatherings in private settings as safe as possible. Consider the vaccination status of everyone attending the gathering—for example, it’s safest to only gather with individuals who are fully vaccinated, recognizing that some children may not be eligible. Limit the size of your gathering to as few people as possible. The fewer people who gather, the lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
  • Plan ahead for any overnight guests to ensure COVID-safe measures are in place. Consider the vaccination status of all involved. Have a plan on how guests can safely self-isolate should they develop a symptom during their stay and know where to seek testing.
  • Practise safe retail behaviours. Consider curbside pick-up and off-peak shopping hours.
  • For those living in congregate settings such as long-term care homes, retirements homes, or other settings with vulnerable persons, consider the vaccination status of those you might visit over the holidays and additional safety measures for when you return, such as careful symptom monitoring and testing.

For more information or if you have questions about COVID-19 or vaccinations, please visit phsd.ca/COVID-19 or call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200).

Two COVID19 deaths – one in Algoma – another in Sudbury/Manitoulin

The agency is reporting 12 new cases of COVID-19.

10 – Sault Ste. Marie & Area

1 – Elliot Lake & Area

1 – Central & East Algoma

It is with great sadness that the agency is also reporting the region’s 17th death related to COVID-19. Out of respect for the family, no further information is being shared.

The newly reported cases acquired their infection as follows:

6 – close contact of a confirmed case

3 – unknown source of infection

3 – under investigation

There are currently 262 active cases in the Algoma District with six individuals hospitalized

Public Health Sudbury & Districts say there are 363 active cases and is also reporting one COVID19-related death.

Out of respect for the family, no further information is being shared.

Health Sciences North says it has 26 people admitted for COVID19, 20 positives and six waiting for test results. There are seven individuals in intensive care.

Coronavirus in the schools

Ontario is reporting a record-high number of COVID-19 infections in our schools.

Officials say there are 260 schools with outbreaks now, 239 of them in elementary schools.

That’s higher than the 214 outbreaks reported last April when the government decided to close schools to in-person learning.

The latest figures show more than 23 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have received their first inoculation against the virus.

Pressure continues to mount on the Ford government to expand the availability of COVID-19 rapid testing kits

Currently, the province makes the tests available for free to those who need them, people who have symptoms of the virus, or those who are close contacts of diagnosed carriers.

But medical officials and the opposition say they should be offered to everyone who wants one, in an effort to catch more infectious people before they can spread the virus.

Premier Doug Ford says Ontario leads the country in the use of the kits, handing out 57 percent of the total distributed across Canada so far.

Each school student will be given five rapid-testing kits to take home before the Christmas break.

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