By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Chatham-Kent COVID-19 numbers are hovering between the Orange and Red zones as the province gets prepared to lift both the stay-at-home and lockdown orders issued during the holiday season.
On Thursday, Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health said he predicts Chatham-Kent will lean toward the Red Zone.
“It’s based on numbers that are happening in the community, and that is kind of an up-to-the-minute situation. So it’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen to our numbers. In Chatham-Kent, our numbers have been trending down… but they still remain kind of high,” Dr. David Colby said.
In order to be declared in the Orange Zone, the municipality must see a weekly incidence rate (occurrence of new cases) of 25 to 39.9 residents per 100,000. The percentage of residents testing positive has to be between 1.3 to 2.4 per cent.
Municipalities enter the Red Zone when there is a weekly incidence rate of at least 40 per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of 2.5 per cent.
Colby said recent local outbreaks “pushed that number up substantially.”
Fairfield Park long-term care home in Wallaceburg has seen a cumulative total of 98 cases, 55 of which remain active.
The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance has an outbreak in the Medicine A/B Unit with 22 cases.
The province does not take into account how dispersed a jurisdiction’s population may be, Colby added.
A lockdown (Grey Zone) will only be issued if Red Zone trends show that those cases are primarily in the high-risk populations or if outbreaks in long-term care homes and hospitals continue to increase in that region.
Colby said he hopes to see low discrepancies between neighbouring counties. Before the second lockdown, Chatham-Kent was in the Green Zone while Windsor-Essex hovered around the red, causing a lot of cross-border movement.
Medical officers of health across the province have since advised the provincial government that reopening should be looked at on a regional basis in addition to a local basis, Colby said.
“I will not be a real happy camper if we have much lower and less stringent precautions in place than our neighbours because that basically encourages people to migrate into our community to seek services,” Colby said. “Whether or not that is going to be taken into account this time, I don’t know.”
According to Ontario’s COVID-19 data, based on the last 14 days with a three-day time lag for data extraction, Chatham-Kent has the highest rate of cases per 100,000 residents compared to its neighbours.
Locally, there are 187.2 cases per 100,000 residents while Windsor-Essex sits at 134.4 cases per 100,000 people. Sarnia-Lambton has the lowest rate in the region with 70.2.
Restaurants will be able to reopen under the Red Zone with an indoor capacity of 10 people. The maximum number of people that can be seated at one table is four. Restaurants and bars can only serve alcohol from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. They can open no earlier than 5 a.m. and close no later than 10 p.m.
Buffet-style service is not allowed and all nightclubs and strip clubs must operate as a restaurant or bar.
Gaming establishments can see a maximum of 10 individuals indoors.
Athletes may only use sports facilities for training purposes and one parent can accompany a minor.
Ten people are allowed for indoor exercise classes and for gyms where weights/exercise machines are in place.
Under the Orange zone all the mentioned limits (with exception of gym classes) will increase to 50 people.