Changes to the way NWHU reports COVID-19 local data, province announces details to gradually ease public health measures
Tim Brody - Editor
The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) has made some changes to the way it is now reporting COVID-19 local data to include more information about hospitalizations and local hospital capacity, as well as the NWHU area percent positivity rate.
Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kit Young Hoon explained while speaking with regional media representatives on Jan. 18, “This type of data helps to show the impact COVID-19 is having locally. We continue to report the number of cases each weekday, however, daily case numbers do not reflect the spread of COVID-19 within a community or our region. The cases reported are only those who eligible for PCR testing.”
As of Jan. 24, NWHU was reporting a 23.4 percent, seven-day average, percent positivity rate for the area it serves. NWHU, on Jan. 24, was reporting five active NWHU cases in hospital due to COVID-19.
On Jan. 20, the provincial government released details of steps it will take to gradually ease public health measures, starting on Jan. 31.
The provincial government informed in a Jan. 20 news release that, “In the absence of concerning trends in public health and health care indicators, Ontario will follow a cautious and phased approach to lifting public health measures, with 21 days between each step.”
The province shared that, effective January 31 at 12:01 a.m. Ontario will begin the process of gradually easing restrictions, while maintaining protective measures, including but not limited to:
Increasing social gathering limits to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
Increasing or maintaining capacity limits at 50 per cent in indoor public settings, including but not limited to:
- Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities;
- Retailers (including grocery stores and pharmacies)
- Shopping malls;
- Non-spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms;
- Meeting and event spaces;
- Recreational amenities and amusement parks, including water parks;
- Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos and similar attractions; and
- Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments
- Religious services, rites, or ceremonies.
- Allowing spectator areas of facilities such as sporting events, concert venues and theatres to operate at 50 per cent seated capacity or 500 people, whichever is less.
The province stated that enhanced proof of vaccination, and other requirements would continue to apply in existing settings.
Other key dates when public health measures are expected to be eased are Feb. 21 and March 14.
The province shared that, Effective February 21, Ontario plans to lift public health measures, including:
- Increasing social gathering limits to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
- Removing capacity limits in indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is required, including but not limited to restaurants, indoor sports and recreational facilities, cinemas, as well as other settings that choose to opt-in to proof of vaccination requirements.
- Permitting spectator capacity at sporting events, concert venues, and theatres at 50 per cent capacity.
- Limiting capacity in most remaining indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is not required to the number of people that can maintain two metres of physical distance.
- Indoor religious services, rites or ceremonies limited to the number that can maintain two metres of physical distance, with no limit if proof of vaccination is required.
- Increasing indoor capacity limits to 25 per cent in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including nightclubs, wedding receptions in meeting or event spaces where there is dancing, as well as bathhouses and sex clubs.
Effective March 14, Ontario plans to take additional steps to ease public health measures, including:
- Lifting capacity limits in all indoor public settings. Proof of vaccination will be maintained in existing settings in addition to other regular measures.
- Lifting remaining capacity limits on religious services, rites, or ceremonies.
- Increase social gathering limits to 50 people indoors with no limits for outdoor gatherings.