NWHU region moved to Yellow – Protect level of province’s COVID-19 Response Framework
Tim Brody - Editor
After consulting with the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) region has moved to the “Yellow – Protect” level of the Ontario Government’s Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework.
The move came into effect on Monday, November 30, at 12:01 a.m.
According to the NWHU, “The shift to this level comes after a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in the Kenora region over the past week.”
As of Nov. 30, NWHU had reported 17 active cases in the Kenora region, two in the Dryden / Red Lake region, one in the District of Rainy River, and three active case in the Sioux Lookout region.
NWHU explained in a media release that this new level for the region requires the implementation of stronger measures including requiring safety plans for some businesses, targeted enforcement, fines, and enhanced education to limit the transmission of COVID-19.
Some of the restrictions in the yellow level include:
• Some businesses now require a safety plan. This must be a written plan that includes things like screening employees, ensuring people maintain at least 2 metres between themselves, disinfecting surfaces and objects, and supporting hand hygiene. The Government of Ontario has a template to help employers create a safety plan.
• Food establishments and bars must be closed between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m., and no more than six people can sit together.
• Liquor can only be sold or served between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. and cannot be consumed in establishments between 12 a.m. and 9 a.m.
• Contact information must be collected from all patrons in settings such as restaurants, personal care service settings, meeting spaces, recreation facilities, and bingo halls.
• Patrons of sports and recreational facilities must be at least 3 metres apart where there are weights/weight machines and in exercise classes. Programs are limited to 10 people per room inside and 25 people outside. Preregistration or appointments
Businesses can find out if they require a safety plan by visiting the Government of Ontario’s COVID-19 Response Framework – Protect.
To help businesses meet this new requirement, NWHU is contacting affected employers with further information.
NWHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kit Young Hoon reminds the public that on top of the new measures put in place for the area, people must also remain vigilant in their personal preventive practises.
“To stay safe, limit your number of close contacts, stay 2 metres from anyone not in your household, wash your hands frequently, and stay home when you are feeling unwell”, she said. “If we do not act now, we face the possibility of further restrictions being placed on us during the holiday season,” Dr. Young Hoon warned.
For more information about the new restrictions, people can view the Government of Ontario’s COVID-19 Response Framework – Protect page or call NWHU’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-866-468-2240.
The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) advised on Nov. 29 that it had received reports of three new positive COVID-19 test results; two in the Kenora region and one in the Sioux Lookout region.
The Northwest Catholic District School Board advised on its website on Nov. 28 that it had received notification of a positive COVID-19 case at Sacred Heart School in Sioux Lookout and that the school board is working closely with the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) on next steps.
“The positive case is being followed up by the Northwestern Health Unit and all contacts of the case will be called and given instructions by public health.
“We are working with the NWHU to make sure all potential risks are minimized. Due to our COVID-19 prevention strategies in place, those staff and students not contacted by the school can continue to attend school as usual. For reasons of privacy, we will minimize sharing personal information about any case and encourage others to avoid identifying individuals,” the school board advised.
Students and staff are asked to use the Government of Ontario’s school screening tool daily before attending school. https://covid-19.ontario.ca/school-screening/
The NWHU recommends that everyone assume COVID-19 is in their community and practise preventive measures like physical distancing, wearing a mask in enclosed public spaces and when physical distancing is a challenge, good hand hygiene, and not touching their face.
“Anyone who has symptoms, or who has been in contact with a positive case, should self-isolate and get tested. For information about getting tested, please visit the NWHU website (https://www.nwhu.on.ca/covid19/Pages/home.aspx) for instructions on how to schedule an appointment at an assessment centre.”
Also in the area, Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority shared in a COVID-19 Update on Nov. 26 that it had been notified that an individual had tested positive for COVID-19 in the community of Deer Lake First Nation.
“The positive case has been detected in one of the health care workers at the nursing station. The community Chief is aware of the situation. The individual has no symptoms and is isolating safely,” SLFNHA shared.
“Investigation and contact tracing has started and the SLFNHA Preventing Infection Disease (PID) team continues to work closely with community health staff to prevent the spread of infection. The SLFNHA PID team continue to support the community health staff with public health management of the case,” SLFNHA further shared.
In a COVID-19 Update on Nov. 29, SLFNHA Public Health Physician Dr. John Guilfoyle informed the individual is doing well.
“We’ve done quite a number of swaps and all of those, to date, are negative. This is still ongoing, and so far, we’ve not detected any spread beyond the first case, but we are watching very closely, more swapping is being done,” he added.
Also in their Nov. 29 COVID-19 update, SLFNHA shared that it had been notified that an individual had tested positive for COVID-19 in the community of North Caribou Lake First Nation.
“The case involves an external construction worker who is isolating in the community at this time.
“Investigation and contact tracing has started and the SLFNHA PID team continues to work closely with community health staff to prevent the spread of infection. The SLFNHA Approaches to Community Wellbeing - Preventing Infection Diseases (PID) team continues to support the community health staff with public health management of the case,” SLFNHA informed.
“We continue to encourage adhering to public health measures. This includes: physical distancing, handwashing, wearing masks/face covering in public where physical distancing cannot be maintained, staying in our circles as much as possible, and avoiding unnecessary travel. We now emphasize the importance of avoiding the 3 Cs: close contact, crowds and closed spaces.
“If you have any community member with symptoms that could be caused by COVID-19, please contact your nursing station to be assessed as a matter of urgency,” SLFNHA concluded.