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Durham facing more restrictions as province lowers threshold to COVID-19 framework

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJIReporter

Durham Regional Chair John Henry says the rise in COVID-19 cases is a “concerning trend” after the province announced it is lowering the thresholds for the COVID-19 framework, which moves Durham into the Orange-Restrict category.

“In recent weeks, we have seen an increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Durham Region,” says Henry. “It’s a concerning trend; a reflection of the second wave that has been seen in many areas of Ontario.”

Premier Doug Ford announced the changes to the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework Friday, which he says will help limit the spread of COVID-19 while keeping schools open, maintaining health system capacity, protecting the province’s most vulnerable, and avoiding broader lockdowns.

Ford says Ontario is on track for 6,500 new cases per day and Intensive Care Units (ICUs) face being overwhelmed in just a few weeks.

“We can’t let that happen,” he says. “We must do whatever it takes to slow the spread of this virus. We must do whatever it takes to stop our hospitals from being overrun.”

Ford notes the framework provides “clarity and certainty” to Ontarians and the local public health units.

“It focuses on early intervention in areas where we’re starting to see cases rise and it provides a baseline for additional targeted action in the areas hardest hit,” he says, noting the updated modelling made it clear the situation has changed since the framework was announced earlier this month.

Before Friday’s announcement, Durham was in the Yellow-Protect category. As of Monday, Nov. 16 at 12:01 a.m., all regions, including Durham, will be moved into their new framework categories, with Durham moving into Orange-Restrict. Toronto, however, with one of the highest reported cases in the province, with 456 new cases on Saturday, was placed in Red-Control, effective Saturday, Nov. 14.

Hamilton, Halton and York will join Toronto in Red-Control effective Monday, Nov. 16.

“These adjustments… they’re necessary to respond to the latest evidence,” Ford continues, noting further adjustments may be made in the future.

Henry says the change means enhanced measures, restrictions and enforcement will be in place to limit further transmission, while avoiding any closures. He says it also means new limits and hours of operation for capacities at restaurants and gym, and increased screening measures.

“But most of all, our personal choices matter,” says Henry. “Please, keep your social interactions to those within your own household. Wash your hands frequently, wear your mask, and download the COVID Alert app.”

Henry says the health and safety of the community has remained the number one priority since the start of the pandemic.

“I know it has been a hard eight months. I know we are tired. But we must work together to protect our most vulnerable,” he says. “We have flattened the curve before, and we can do it again.”

Ontario reported 1,581 new cases on Saturday and 20 new deaths. Durham Region Health Department reported 55 new cases on Nov. 14, up from 46 the day before. There are now 315 active COVID-19 cases across the region, 68 of which are in Oshawa with 17 new cases reported Saturday.

In Oshawa, four people are in hospital, with one in the ICU. Across the province, there are currently 502 hospitalizations with 107 in the ICU, and 66 on a ventilator.

According to Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott, says there are more than 2,000 intensive care beds across the province, which are currently at 81 per cent capacity, noting recent announcements to build greater capacity.

She notes the age at which people are contracting COVID-19 are the older age groups.

“[Younger people] may have been able to weather through the worst of COVID-19 without having to go into intensive care but we know that’s not the case for older Ontarians, so we have to be prepared for that,” she says.

In Durham, there are currently four outbreaks in institutions across the region, including Extendicare Oshawa LTCH, Hillsdale Terraces LTCH, Port Perry Place LTCH, and VIVA Whitby Shores Retirement Home.

“Our government is taking immediate action to reduce the risk and protect the health and wellbeing of Ontarians,” she says. “By making adjustments to our Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework, we are doing what is necessary to continue to fight COVID-19.”

Numbers continue to rise across the school system as well, with 43 active cases in Durham schools – 28 within the Durham District School Board, and 15 cases in Durham Catholic schools.

In Oshawa, there are currently two cases at Stephen G. Saywell  P.S., one case at Queen Elizabeth P.S., two cases at Pierre Elliott Trudeau P.S., two cases at Eastdale CVI, and one case at Monsignor Paul Dwyer Catholic High School in Oshawa.

Ford made it clear to Ontarians Friday what’s at stake if COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

“We’re staring down the barrel of another lockdown and I will not hesitate for a second if we have to go further because our number one priority right now is getting these numbers down,” he says, noting there is some good news.

“We can change the course. We can bend the curve and get this virus under control. We can’t become complacent. We need to fight and continue fighting. Please don’t lose hope,” Ford continues. “Never has so much depended on us coming together as a people, as a province. Together we can and we will get through this.”