The county government’s shift to COVID-19 data thresholds more in line with public health and scientific advice means Niagara is moving into a more restrictive pandemic situation coming Monday morning.
Starting at 12:01 am Monday, the district will switch from its current yellow, or “protection”, status to the orange level “restriction”, which imposes new restrictions on restaurants, bars, sports and entertainment facilities and meeting places. The district will stay in this area for at least 28 days.
The new situation is more restrictive than the recent Niagara Public Health Order for bars and restaurants, which goes into effect on Saturday morning, but doesn’t completely eliminate local directives.
The orange alert reduces maximum occupancy in restaurants and bars, limits the number of people who can sit at a table, and cuts hours and the length of time alcohol is served.
It sets occupancy limits for gyms, and customers can only stay for 90 minutes.
In both cases of restaurants and gyms, recipients should be screened for COVID-19 upon arrival.
The new measures were announced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, on Friday afternoon, the day after the Toronto Star revelation that the provincial government had rejected public health advice in Ontario regarding cases of the four COVID-19 control measures.
“We must always be prepared to change course as the situation evolves,” Ford said during a press conference on Friday. “We are staring at another lock’s mouth.”
The provincial government has moved target points for regional epidemic metrics that would trigger a new level of restrictions, and lower key thresholds that would drive these actions earlier.
When the four-color model was announced, Niagara was put on a yellow alert, which has effectively been the status quo for the region since the county moved it to the third phase of the economic reopening plan.
But across several key indicators, including the percentage of positive tests, the number of people who could potentially infect a person – called the effective reproduction rate – and the number of cases per 100,000 people was either at the maximum of the yellow code or had it crossed them.
On Thursday, Niagara’s Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Mustafa Hergi, said Niagara was on the verge of moving into orange alert, and was not surprised by the rearrangement of the data thresholds that caused a change in Niagara.
Hargey said that while the transition to orange alert imposes greater restrictions that he is unwilling to impose due to the growing economic hardships it will cause, the question remains open whether this will be sufficient to reduce the Niagara virus COVID-19 infection.
“In the larger municipalities that were already at that stage (including Ottawa, Toronto and Bell), they had no effect in reducing these infection rates,” Hergé said on Friday.
However, Niagara has more rural communities than these major centers, which may help the area keep the infection rate low.
But he warned that if society did not embrace physical distancing, wearing masks and washing hands, the rate of infection would continue to accelerate. That could eventually lead to Niagara moving into a more restrictive red alert.
“It’s difficult for me to know how the government is making decisions, but they review the data every Friday, so we’ll see what the data say next week,” Harge said.
The orange alert restrictions will largely operate in coordination with the actions Hergie ordered Friday.
These measures require restaurants and bars to confirm with customers that they are dining with members of their immediate family or with no more than one or two “primary contacts,” including the caregiver or partner of a single person.
Hargey’s order required no more than six people at a table and did not speak of hours of operation or the maximum overall occupancy of the restaurant.
The orange alert sets limits from four to a table, closing time is 10 PM and alcohol is prohibited after 9 PM
COVID ORANGE ALERT: What does that mean.
On Friday, the government lowered the thresholds for key metrics that determine the COVID-19 alert status in the region.
Niagara had achieved or exceeded the levels previously set for Yellow Alert. Under the new system, the data puts Niagara straight into the orange level.
For example, the new yellow alert specifies the number of cases per 100,000 people between 10 and 25.9. Niagara rate is currently 42.6, And still click Orange alert at a maximum of 39.9.
The percentage of positive tests in Niagara is 2.4, Right at the maximum orange code level.
On other metrics, including hospital capacity and overall health, data shows Niagara in yellow or green areas.
What does this mean?
The Orange alert is placing new restrictions on several businesses including restaurants and gyms for a period of 28 days starting Monday.
Restaurants and bars can only contain Maximum 50 beneficiaries, With Maximum four people per table. These tables must be at least Two meters. The institutions must Close by 10 PM and alcohol must stop at 9 PM
Also, the maximum occupancy for gyms is 50 people, And only recipients can stay for 90 minutes.
In cases of bars, restaurants and gyms, recipients should be screened for COVID-19 upon arrival.
What about the public health system?
Public health in Niagara requires restaurants and bars to confirm that patrons are with members Their immediate families – reach to Four people are orange alert – or max Two primary contacts. The order will take effect on Saturday.