NWHU catchment area moves to Red – Control zone of province’s COVID-19 Response Framework
Tim Brody - Editor
The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) catchment area moved to the Red–Control level of the province’s COVID-19 Response Framework as of March 15 at 12:01 a.m.
According to NWHU, there has been an increase in COVID-19 cases across the region and the health unit is urging residents to take immediate action to stop the spread of the virus.
The NWHU catchment area was formerly at the Yellow – Protect level of the framework, bypassing the Orange – Restrict level. The NWHU catchment area will remain at the Red – Control level for at least two weeks.
“We are one level away from Grey-Shutdown. This is the time for residents to take public health measures seriously. Do not gather indoors with anyone that you do not live with. Stay 2 metres from those not within your household,” said Dr. Kit Young Hoon, Medical Officer of Health at NWHU.
Dr. Young Hoon also said people should not travel, unless it is essential, especially to areas of higher risk, including Thunder Bay.
“If you have even one symptom of COVID-19, get tested and stay home. Your family members must also stay home until you have your test results back,” Dr. Young Hoon advised.
According to NWHU, the Red-Control zone adds additional restrictions that affect the public, businesses, and organizations.
Some of the new restrictions include:
• Indoor gathering limit of 5 people
• Outdoor gathering limit of 25 people
• Residents must only go out for essential reasons (work, school, essential shopping, health care, exercise)
• Some businesses and facilities must actively screen customers
• Restaurants must have a limit of 10 customers inside and a maximum of 4 people per table
• Services requiring the removal of face coverings will not be permitted at personal service establishments
• Organized recreational team sports must not be practised or played, with the exception of training sessions for team members. Training sessions are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, and must not include games/scrimmages. All training session drills/activities must allow for physical distancing of at least 2m between individuals.
A full list of restrictions in the Red-Control zone can be found at: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/zones-and-restrictions#what-each-zone-means
The new restrictions do not affect the operation or requirements in schools and child care centres.
The health unit advised that it will be reaching out to local workplaces that are inspected by NWHU to provide education and support with the additional restrictions.
The health unit further shared, “This morning (March 12), Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) was informed that two COVID-19 cases in our region have come back positive for the UK variant.
“The two cases are unrelated to one another. One case is in the Fort Frances area and had recently returned to the area from a higher risk region. Case and contact follow up has taken place and all close contacts are in isolation. At this time, NWHU is awaiting test results from close contacts to determine the likelihood of further spread. The other case is a previously positive case, linked to our area’s first reported variant of concern in the Dryden area. No further spread from this case was seen, and the case is now considered resolved.”
“This emphasizes the need for individuals and their household members to self-isolate immediately when someone has a symptom of COVID-19. Variants of concern can spread incredibly fast,” said Dr. Young Hoon. “
“By only getting within 2 metres of people you live with, you are able to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 to others,” Dr. Young Hoon continued.
NWHU is urging the public to take prevention measures seriously, especially with variants of concern in the region. The health unit advised that it will keep the public informed as they learn more about potential spread of the variants.
In Sioux Lookout, on March 13 the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board (KPDSB) advised that it had been notified of two students testing positive for COVID-19 at Sioux North High School (SNHS).
“The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) has determined that there was no exposure to students and staff in the school for one of the cases and has directed us to close two classes in the school as a result of the second case effective today (March 13, 2021),” the school board shared.
On March 11 the school board advised that it had received notification that a student at Sioux Mountain Public School (SMPS) had tested positive for COVID-19 and that it had been directed by NWHU to close the impacted class that evening.
KPDSB informed that the positive cases are being followed up with by NWHU and all contacts of the cases were called and given instruction by NWHU.
“We are working with NWHU to make sure all potential risks are minimized,”
The school board shared that due to their COVID-19 prevention strategies in place, those families who were not contacted directly by their staff on the evening of March 11 (SMPS) or March 13 (SNHS) are deemed to be at no additional risk and can continue to attend school as usual.”
The school board shared, “For reasons of privacy, we will minimize sharing personal information about any cases and encourage others to avoid identifying individuals.
“All students and staff should use the Government of Ontario’s school screening tool daily before attending school - https://covid-19.ontario.ca/school-screening/.”
As of March 15, NWHU was reporting three active cases in the Dryden / Red Lake region, 43 active cases in the Kenora region, seven active cases in the District of Rainy River and 22 active cases in the Sioux Lookout region.