Stay-home order needed, area's MOH says

Article Sidebar

Article content

With files from Rob Gowan

Grey-Bruce’s top public health official said the province’s stay-at-home order and imminent state of emergency are necessary measures to curb climbing COVID-19 numbers.

The direction is coming from the province, and the fine details haven’t arrived yet, so Dr. Ian Arra commented with a level of hesitancy on the specifics of the order.

“Generally the order is to stay home, not to leave home unless someone is going to the pharmacy or for some essential need,” Arra said.

The province’s newest emergency order will take effect shortly after midnight Thursday. It will stay in place for at least 28 days.

Government officials say people should stay home unless for essential purposes such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care-services, exercising or doing essential work.

However, non-essential retail stores are still able to offer curbside pickup and there are no restrictions on the purchase of non-essential items. There are no time limits or trip limits set on a person’s daily travel, as long as the trips are for essential purposes. There also doesn’t appear to be any language in the updated Enhancing Public Health and Workplace Safety Measures in the Provincewide Shutdown document preventing people from driving from their home to another public health jurisdiction to partake in exercise at a cross-country skiing or snowmobile trail – which are permitted to remain open.


Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content continued

Meanwhile, ski hills in Ontario remain closed.

Blue Mountain tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that the province’s update containing the “stay-at-home” order was disappointing news.

“It has undoubtedly been a tough start to a New Year for all of us,” said the tweet. “We ask for your patience and understanding while we once again review how these updates impact our operations.”

On Wednesday, Owen Sound city staff were reviewing the information from the province and consulting with the Grey Bruce Health Unit on what the measures mean for city services, including the Good Cheer Outdoor Ice Rink at Harrison Park.

Staff planned to meet on Thursday afternoon to discuss the impacts on city services.

Arra said an emergency order of this magnitude is necessary given the current situation.

Case counts have risen by more than 3,000 new cases daily this week, and the built-in data lag means the strain on the province’s hospital system is about to get worse in the weeks ahead.

“That is to say, the 3,000 cases we see every day this week are going to translate into admission to hospital, into admission into the ICU, and deaths in three to seven weeks. So, we’re going to be dealing with these increases even if today everything stopped to a dead halt,” he said. “If the province did not implement these measures, then these numbers are going to continue to rise or at least stay the same and we would have to deal with those consequences until mid-March. The hospital system would be challenged.”


Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content continued

Arra said he’s confident the latest shutdown and stay-at-home measures will work, but local data from the shutdown which began on Dec. 26 is hard to parse because of the rise of Christmas gatherings coinciding with the holidays.

“We can’t tell what effect they are having because of the holiday counter-effect,” he said.

New strains of the virus, more easily transmissible, may have an impact on the success of the shutdown measures as well. Arra said he’s concerned about the emerging virus strains and wonders how they may change operations like contact tracing and a new mask-wearing directive for long-term care residents.

“If you look at the past data, six months, we didn’t need it because we had control without the mask on a resident. Now, with this new strain, do we need it? Or not? It’s just an example of how this new strain may change the way we manage. We will see,” he said.