EOHU: New restrictions begin Monday

CORNWALL – New restrictions begin on Monday for several types of businesses and sports facilities said the Eastern Ontario Health Unit. The health unit made an announcement late Friday evening that new Section 22 orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Sunday (October 25th).

The restrictions, which will remain in place for 28 days, is in response to sharp increases in COVID-19 infection rates in the region, predominantly in Prescott-Russell. Since the beginning of October there have been 210 new COVID-19 infections in the region, 172 of those in Prescott-Russell. There have been two new deaths, both of residents in long-term care homes.

Restaurants and bars face new limits of no more than 100 people for indoor and outdoor spaces combined. Banquet halls cannot have more than 50 people indoors, 100 outdoors. A maximum of six people can be seated at one table and tables cannot be combined.

Anyone waiting in line to enter a building must wear a mask in line, or maintain two metres of space from people outside of their household. Food and drink service businesses must conduct a COVID-19 screening and log contact tracing information on each person for both indoor and outdoor seating.

Unlike modified Stage Two restrictions implemented in Toronto, York, Peel, and Ottawa, there will be no business closures.

“The last thing I want is for businesses in our community to have to shut their doors again as they did in the spring,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, EOHU medical officer of health. “By putting these new measures in place, I’m hoping we can stop the rising number of infections and prevent another shutdown that would hurt our local economy.”

Indoor sports, dance studios, and recreation facilities face new restrictions as well. Classes and organized program or activities cannot exceed 10 people, excluding staff. No more than 50 participants can be in a building, and each class of up to 10 people has to take place in a separate room.

Earlier this past week, Roumeliotis said the pending Section 22 order would not impact on-ice play in hockey arenas.

“To be clear, arenas are unchanged and still follow the Stage Three guidance,” Roumeliotis clarified Monday.

Also included in the order, all steam rooms, saunas, whirlpool spas, and bathhouses must be closed.

For personal services businesses like hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, aesthetician salons and tattoo parlours, contact tracing information and COVID-19 screening is mandatory for all clients under the order.

The order comes after a week long back and forth between Roumeliotis and the provincial government. On October 19th, Roumeliotis said that the region may enter modified Stage Two restrictions and that it was going to the provincial health table on October 20th for a decision.

During his October 21st update to local media, he said he did not recommend Stage Two restrictions to the health table because numbers had dropped below the 25 infections per 100,000 population threshold for a high infection rate. At that point said that the province would look at issuing a provincial regulation to add occupancy restrictions, however the Ontario government did not do so.

On October 22nd, Ontario premier Doug Ford did not specifically name the EOHU in his comments but said that if health units wanted more restrictions then they have the power under the HPPA Act to issue Section 22 orders.

This round of Section 22 orders by the EOHU will remain in effect until November 22nd.

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