By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter
Durham Region has been placed in Protect (Yellow) based on the province’s new framework to fight COVID-19, and the message from Durham Region’s medical officer of health is the same: remain vigilant and follow public health measures and rules.
Premier Doug Ford recently announced the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework which took effect Saturday, Nov. 7 at 12:01 a.m.
The framework is based on a colour-coded system, which categorizes public health unit regions into five different levels: Green (prevent), Yellow (protect), Orange (restrict), Red (control), and Lockdown being a measure of last and urgent resort.
Each level outlines the types of public health and workplace safety measures for businesses and organizations, including targeted measures for specific sectors, institutions and other sectors.
Based on COVID-19 data, Durham was placed in Protect (Yellow), which means some changes for Durham residents.
Public health measures under the new framework for the Protect (Yellow) block include the wearing of masks or face coverings at indoor workplaces and public spaces, a gathering limit of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors for private social gatherings, a gathering limit of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors for public events, as well as gathering limits for religious services, ceremonies, weddings and funerals, requirement for workplace screening, and to restrict all non-essential travel from areas of high-transmission to areas of low transmission.
The new framework also brings changes to health measures for restaurants and bars, sports and recreational fitness, meetings and event spaces, retail, personal care services, casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments, cinemas and performing arts facilities.
“In the main, residents can expect to see changes in restaurants with limits, hours of operation, gathering limits, physical distancing and masking,” says Durham Region Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Kyle, noting the health department is carefully analyzing the framework to make sure guidelines and information is updated accurately.
Kyle says while Durham continues to see double-digit new cases on a daily basis, his message remains consistent.
“A lot of what we’re seeing is community transmission which means we don’t know where cases become infected,” he explains. “Having said that, people need to be vigilant so we’ll get through this. And if we take a whole of Durham approach in terms of our response to COVID-19, then we will preserve hospital capacity, public health capacity, laboratory capacity, and we will continue to be containing the virus as we’ve been doing up to now.”
The province states the new framework will ensure public health measures are “targeted, incremental and responsive to help limit the spread of the virus, while also keeping schools and businesses open, maintaining health system capacity and protecting vulnerable people, including those in long-term care.”
“It’s clear COVID-19 will be with us for a while, which is why we are putting in place a framework that will protect the health and safety of individuals and families, while avoiding broader closures across the province,” states Ford, noting the new framework will serve as an early warning system allowing the province to scale up and scale back public health restrictions on a regional or community basis in response to surges and waves of COVID-19.
“By introducing public health measures sooner, we can keep this deadly virus at bay, bend the curve and reclaim a little more of our normal lives,” says Ford.
The new framework is based off of the province’s six main priorities in fighting COVID-19 – limit the transmission of COVID-19, avoid closures, keep schools and childcare open, maintain health care and public health system capacity, protect vulnerable populations, and provide additional supports where possible.
“The health and wellbeing of Ontarians is our number one priority,” says Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, noting this new framework focuses on introducing “less invasive measures earlier to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
“We are committed to being transparent with Ontarians, businesses and local communities as we work together to keep Ontarians safe, while keeping our economy open,” she continues.
For more information, or to view the new Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework in full, visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open.