As part of Ontario’s Provincewide Shutdown, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) region will enter a 28-day shutdown, as of 12:01 A.M. on December 26, 2020. The shutdown seeks to reduce the spread of COVID-19, protect our most vulnerable and prevent health system capacity from becoming overwhelmed. During the shutdown, the current COVID-19 Response Framework will be paused and stricter measures will be in place.
These measures include, but are not limited to:
- Restricting indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.
- Prohibiting in-person shopping in most retail settings – curbside pickup and delivery can continue. Discount and big box retailers selling groceries will be limited to 25 per cent capacity for in-store shopping.
- Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies, will continue to operate at 50 per cent capacity for in-store shopping.
- Restricting indoor access to shopping malls – patrons may only go to a designated indoor pickup area (by appointment only), essential retail stores that are permitted to be open (e.g. pharmacy, grocery store), or, subject to physical distancing and face covering requirements, to the food court for takeout purchases. Shopping malls may also establish outdoor designated pickup areas.
- Closing all facilities for indoor and outdoor sports and recreational fitness activities. Outdoor sport and recreation fitness amenities (e.g. parks and recreational areas, ice rinks, and snowmobile, cross country, dogsledding, ice-skating and snow-shoe trails) can remain open with certain conditions. Ski hills are closed.
- Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take out, drive-through, and delivery only.
- All publicly funded and private elementary and secondary schools are to move to teacher-led remote learning when students return from the winter break on January 4, 2021. For schools in the EOHU region, elementary school students are planned to be able to return to in-person learning on January 11, 2021, and secondary school students will continue learning remotely until January 25, 2021, at which point they may resume in-person learning.
- Child care centres, authorized recreational and skill building programs and home-based child care services will remain open. From January 4-8, 2021, when elementary students move to remote learning, before and after school programs will be closed and emergency child care for health care and frontline workers will be provided.
“I support the province’s decision to implement a provincewide shutdown,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the EOHU. “The number of COVID-19 cases across our area and the province has been rising steadily and our healthcare system is on the brink of being overwhelmed. These measures are necessary to protect the health and safety of all residents in the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Prescott and Russell, and the City of Cornwall.” Dr. Paul acknowledges that these measures will also help prevent people travelling into our region from Quebec which is entering into its own lockdown starting December 25. Over the course of the 28 days, he will work with the province to evaluate the measures to determine if it is safe to lift any restrictions or if they need to be extended.
In addition to the measures announced, the EOHU is reminding residents to stay home as much as possible with trips outside the home limited to necessities such as food, medication, medical appointments, or supporting vulnerable community members. Employers in all industries should make every effort to allow employees to work from home. Residents should continue to take the following public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- Stay home when ill
- Practice physical distancing with those outside your household
- Wear a mask when physical distancing is a challenge (and where mandatory)
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Download the COVID Alert app on your phone from the Apple and Google Play app stores
To learn more about the provincewide shutdown, consult the official document on the Ontario’s website. For more information about COVID-19, including business-specific requirements, visit the health unit’s website at www.EOHU.ca/coronavirus.