Windsor-Essex moving into lockdown level of provincial COVID-19 shutdown framework
Published Friday, December 11, 2020 7:50AM EST Last Updated Friday, December 11, 2020 1:59PM EST
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Windsor-Essex is moving into the most restricted level of Ontario’s shutdown framework.
The region will advance to the ‘Grey-Lockdown’ tier, the province announced Friday. It is effective Monday, Dec. 14 at 12:01 a.m.
The impact is widespread, with gyms, non-essential stores at malls and hair salons being forced to close. Indoor dining at restaurants is also not permitted.
The province says the region will stay at that level for at least 28 days, which would be Jan. 11.
"Moving a region into Grey-Lockdown is not an easy decision, but it is one we needed to make in order to help stop the spread of the virus and safeguard the key services we rely on," said Minister of Health Christine Elliott.
The Windsor-Essex Health Unit region has been in the ‘Red-Control’ zone since Nov. 30.
Medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex Dr. Wajid Ahmed has warned for the past two weeks that the region was at risk for moving into a lockdown as the transmission of COVID-19 continues at an alarming rate.
Ahmed said last week he wanted to see the results of the red tier before moving into a lockdown. However over the past week, the number of daily new cases reached record levels, including 127 on Wednesday, 104 cases on Thursday and 104 cases on Friday.
“We are on the verge of having the local health system capacity get overwhelmed,” said Ahmed.
WECHU says 37 people are in the hospital with confirmed cases and seven are in the ICU. There are also 73 people in the hospital with suspected COVID-19, but are waiting for results.
To help slow the spread and ease the pressure on local hospitals, Ahmed issued a Section 22 order to close all Windsor-Essex schools on Monday and switch to online learning for the remaining week before the holiday break.
The province’s framework doesn’t give specific criteria for a move from red to lockdown, but areas being monitored are test positivity rate, increasing outbreaks among vulnerable populations and the risk of the hospital or ICU capacity being overwhelmed.
Windsor-Essex is fourth the highest for the case rate in Ontario and is above the provincial average. The per cent positivity rate in the region is 4.5. That’s the fifth highest in the province.
The province announced Nov. 3 that all Ontario public health unit regions will be categorized into five levels: Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Grey-Lockdown.
Windsor-Essex has advanced rapidly through the stages. The region started at green, moved to yellow on Nov. 16, advanced to orange on Nov. 23 and then to red on Nov. 30.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford usually announces any changes for regions on Fridays, with the new status taking effect the following Saturday or Monday.
Toronto and Peel are the only other regions in the province previously in lockdown. York Region moves into lockdown on Monday.
Chatham-Kent will remain in the yellow level and Middlesex London moves into red.
Data is reviewed weekly. According to the provincial shutdown guidelines, regions will stay in that zone for a minimum of 28 days, or two COVID-19 incubation periods.
After 28 days, government and health officials will assess how public health measures are working and determine if the region should stay where it is or move to a different zone.
The Ontario government is providing $600 million in property tax and energy cost rebates to support eligible businesses required to close or significantly restrict services due to enhanced public health measures, doubling its initial commitment of $300 million made in the 2020 Budget.