Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/March 31, 2021 –
As the Easter weekend approaches, I am reaching out to you with a sincere request for your assistance as we work together to end this pandemic. As you plan for a long weekend, please make every effort to avoid close contact with anyone from outside your immediate household.
This is not the time to be complacent. Today, we reported an all-time daily high of 32 positive cases. Our current 7-day rate is 29.7 per 100,000. Our 7-day positivity is 2%.
In response to a significant increase in local cases, we have enhanced public health restrictions in our region. This means that:
- Gatherings at private residences can not exceed more than 5 people (both indoor and outdoor gatherings)
- Bookings for restaurants, personal service settings, and accommodations must not be accepted from anyone who resides outside of HPEC
- All short-term accommodations (e.g. Airbnb’s, B&B’s, cottages) are immediately closed, including all bookings made prior to March 30, 2021 (Exception: booking of accommodation is permitted for individuals who are travelling to or within our region for essential reasons, i.e. health care staff, medical appointments, and emergencies, and are in need of housing).
Implementing enhanced measures is a difficult but necessary decision that aims to protect the vulnerable in our community while we work diligently to increase immunity through vaccination. We need the support and cooperation of all local residents to stop the spread in our region, so we can lift these measures as soon as possible.
You might ask, ‘why are we implementing stricter restrictions now, compared to last summer, or even in the fall’? It is important to understand that we have not only seen a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, but a significant increase in variants of concern (VOCs) in our region and surrounding areas. Evidence shows that VOCs may be up to 70% more contagious and may cause more severe illness than the original strain of COVID-19. With this increased risk, more than ever it’s important to stay strong, stay vigilant, and continue following all public health and workplace safety measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community and avoid unknowingly bringing variants of the virus to HPEC.
Please support the sacrifices of local businesses and short-term rental operators who are being impacted by these enhanced measures. Please support the tireless efforts of health care workers who are working seven days a week to identify, trace, and notify COVID-19 cases and contacts. Each of us has a role to play and you CAN make a difference by doing your part to stop the spread.
Please refrain from hosting family or friends who reside in other regions, as even one gathering can result in a significant increase in cases. Travelling to other regions continues to be discouraged, as one could be unknowingly exposed to COVID-19 and spread the virus locally. If you chose to go out to dine in our region, please only gather with those from your own household, or make every effort to physical distance during your meal.
This holiday is often celebrated by gathering with family and friends, but I encourage you to find alternative ways to connect this year. I know that everyone is tired. I know the warm weather and vaccination rollout is encouraging, and it can be easy to let your guard down. We have done so well in our region, and I sincerely thank you for your continued efforts and all the hard work you are doing to keep our community safe. But in order to keep case numbers low, in order to reduce the risk of illness for your parent, grandparent, neighbour, friend… I am asking you to please, keep it up a bit longer.
If despite this increased risk you choose to host overnight guests or have close contact with an individual from outside the region, you then need to make the responsible choice to protect the community from potential exposure by avoiding close contact with others for 14 days after the visit, monitoring for symptoms, and getting tested if symptoms develop (even minor ones).
If you choose to gather with others, take steps to reduce your risk:
- Visit virtually if possible
- Consider alternate ways to connect
- Get together outside
- Maintain physical distance
- Stay within gathering limits, and
- Minimize close contact by avoiding indoor visits or overnight guests.
- Get vaccinated, if you are eligible.
On behalf of the team at HPEPH, thank you for your ongoing commitment to protect one another and the health of our community.
Dr. Piotr Oglaza
Medical Officer of Health and CEO
Maureen Hyland, Communications Specialist
Emily Tubbs, Communications Specialist
Class Order FAQs
Q: How long will the Class Order will be in effect?
A: There is no specific date when the Class Order will end. HPEPH is carefully monitoring the current situation and we are hopeful that with these additional measures in place, cases will stabilize and we will be able to lessen restrictions in the near future. We understand that these restrictions are challenging for everyone.
Q: I live on the border of HPEC. Can I still do my grocery shopping in HPEC?
A: Yes, you can shop in HPEC, although we strongly encourage residents to stay within their own region. In order to reduce the risk of transmission in high contact situations, non-HPEC residents are not permitted to make reservations at or eat inside a HPEC restaurant while the Class Order is in effect. Pick-up/take-out service is permitted. Non-residents are also not permitted to book or receive personal services such as a haircut or massage while in HPEC. These situations involve close contact between individuals and increase the potential risk of transmission.
Q: Are businesses and organizations restricted to gatherings of 5 people now?
A: No, the gathering limit of 5 does not apply to official/registered organizations. The gathering limit applies to social gatherings that are held at a private dwelling, condominium, apartment building and or student residence. HPEPH requires businesses/organizations to have safety plans and public health measures in place, to reduce the risk of transmission in these settings.
Q: Why can people eat at a restaurant, but I can’t have my family over for Easter dinner?
A: Restaurants are required to have infection control procedures in place in the restaurant minimize the chance of COVID-19 transmission. However, even at restaurants HPEPH encourages people to dine with individuals from their own household. While restaurants have measures in place to restrict transmission between groups/tables, if you are dining at the same table as individuals from outside your household, you are putting yourself at increased risk. If you choose to dine at a restaurant with those outside your household, lower your risk by taking steps to maintain physical distancing throughout your meal.
Public health regulations in place at restaurants include:
- maximum of 5 diners per table
- use of proper PPE by staff and patrons
- maintaining proper distancing between tables
- occupancy limits
- having a safety plan in place
- proper sanitization of cooking/serving supplies
- appropriate PPE for servers and food handlers
Q: Why are kids permitted to attend school but I can’t have a gathering of more than 5 people?
A: While transmission can occur at schools, extensive public health measures are in place in all in-person school settings. To date, there has been no transmission between children at schools in HPEC. However, the same cannot be said for social gatherings in other settings which account for the bulk our cases.
Schools have strict safety and public health protocols in place that have proven effective in reducing COVID-19 transmission, including:
- Daily screening
- Mandatory masking
- Hand hygiene
- Appropriate PPE for teachers
- Extensive cleaning procedures
Q: Why are you restricting reservations to just people in HPEC?
A: The Ontario government continues to discourage travel between regions and the Class Order helps enforce that direction. By restricting reservations from out of region we also are aiming to stop the spread of COVID-19 – and particularly the more contagious variants of concern – into HPEC.
Q: Why are big box stores still open but I can’t have a gathering?
A: Stores are required to have public health protocols in place that greatly reduce transmission, including hand sanitizing upon entry, mandatory masking for both staff and patrons, use of proper PPE by staff, distancing, capacity, physical barriers, and more. When physical distancing is maintained, the risk of transmission while shopping is significantly lower than while holding a social gathering.
Q: Why can people from out of region still shop in our area but not stay overnight?
A: We encourage all individuals to shop within their own region. However, we recognize that many individuals who live outside the region work in our area or visit for essential medical appointments, and may need to access retail services or take out food services while they are in our region. The risk of transmission in retail settings is much lower than the risk of transmission from prolonged exposure (close contact), overnight stays, and non-essential gatherings with someone from outside of your household.
Q: If a non-resident goes to a restaurant without a reservation or advanced booking, is the restaurant permitted to serve them?
A: The Class Order states that bookings can only be accepted from individuals who are from HPEC. This includes walk-in bookings. Restaurants are expected to verify that individuals dining at their establishment reside within HPEC. Take out/pick up orders are permitted for individuals who reside outside of HPEC. The Class order applies to everyone residing in or present in HPEC and failure to comply could result in significant fines.