Persistently high and growing COVID-19 case rates have led the Public Health Sudbury & Districts Medical Officer of Health to expand the legally enforceable instructions currently in effect locally under the Ontario Provincial Reopening Act. New safeguards will be implemented across the Agency’s coverage area and those currently in place in Greater Sudbury will be expanded to include Sudbury and Manitoulin counties.
“We have come to a point where we need to duplicate the basics like masking, physical distancing and vaccination. But the local circumstances also mean that we also need some new rules that pull back some loose measures to further protect unvaccinated people, especially children, “said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Public Health Sudbury & Districts Health Officer. “Today I am announcing new protective measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 and am doing our best to ensure that we are as prepared as possible for the highly transmissible Omicron variant,” added Dr. Sutcliffe added.
After reviewing trends and data – and taking into account concerns about the Omicron variant and the sociability that comes with the holiday season – Dr. Sutcliffe, with the assistance of the provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health, is calling for the following measures to apply in Greater Sudbury, Manitoulin District, and Sudbury District from 12:01 am on Saturday, December 11, 2021. The new instructions extend the measures currently in force for the City of Greater Sudbury to the entire service area of the Agency, including:
- The capacity limits and physical distancing requirements that were relaxed by the province in early autumn have been reintroduced.
- Stricter mask requirements at organized public events.
- Increased proof of mandatory vaccination for organized sport in indoor facilities.
- Reintroduces the previous requirement that employees work remotely (e.g. from home) unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site at work.
These new instructions also add new safeguards as follows:
- Shops and organizations that are open must limit the size of social gatherings and organized public events on their premises and venues to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
- Proof of compulsory vaccination (for people aged 12 and over) for all non-essential companies and organizations for which this is currently voluntary (opt-in) according to the Step 3 rules, while respecting the capacity limits. This applies to personal care services, indoor recreational facilities, museums, galleries, and science centers, among others. A full list of settings can be found in the detailed technical briefing (PDF). This measure will not take effect until 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, December 15, 2021
- Increased requirements for basic public health measures in all sectors, including masking, physical distancing, active screening and contact tracing. For example, masks are needed outdoors in locations where people cannot keep a physical distance of at least 2 meters from people outside their household (subject to exceptions for the use of masks).
- Stricter requirements for security plans for all businesses and organizations, including details of what they should contain. This includes, for example, the implementation and documentation of regular reviews of the plan with employees.
- Food and beverage establishments need to re-implement some safeguards from Step 2, including not serving buffets and ensuring that guests generally remain seated (except when dancing in facilities where this is allowed).
- In facilities for indoor sports and leisure fitness activities as well as for personal fitness trainers:
- Return to a physical distancing requirement of 3 meters (instead of 2 meters) for some activities.
- Establishment of new protective devices to increase plant safety, for example in washrooms and changing rooms.
- Team sports or games that could lead to personal contact may not be practiced or played on the facility, either indoors or outdoors, unless the sport or game has been changed to avoid personal contact. Limited exceptions apply to professional and elite sports leagues or associations. School-related extracurricular team sports or games are subject to separate, previously communicated measures.
- Asking shopping malls to turn down the volume of music and avoid queues and gatherings unless the physical distance of 2 meters is observed.
- For those who cannot work remotely, increased occupational safety measures, for example requirements for virtual meetings and staggered breaks, as far as possible.
The number of cases continues to rise in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts. On December 4, 2021, Public Health Sudbury & Districts passed a milestone of 4000 reported COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, less than a month after we hit the previous milestone of 3000 cases. Although the pandemic is in its 21st month, more than a quarter (26%) of the total cases have only been reported in the past 30 days. Given the record number of currently active cases and the continued rise in COVID-19 infections, it is expected that new hospital admissions and the need for intensive care admissions will follow, affecting not only community members but our healthcare system as well. Public health urges everyone to understand the seriousness of this risk for everyone and to do everything possible to reverse the current COVID-19 case trends. Public health does its best to ensure that additional restrictions reduce transmission, protect personal learning, and protect health and the health system.
“The additional COVID-19 protective measures that have already been introduced have had an impact in that our numbers do not skyrocket. However, the case numbers are stubbornly high and remain among the highest in the province. Although we are seeing cases of COVID-19 in students that ultimately affect classes, cohorts, and schools, the transmission occurs primarily in the community. We are not seeing high transmission of COVID-19 in schools and we continue to focus on personal protection learning. The latest modeling from Ontario’s Science Advisory Table paints a strong picture of case growth even without the Omicron variant. The modeling shows that we need to redouble public health measures to mitigate transmission while protecting as many people as possible with vaccinations, “said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health at Public Health Sudbury & Districts.
In addition to the instructions provided under the Ontario Reopening Act, the Medical Officer of Health strongly recommends that residents of the area follow these additional measures:
- Avoid travel that is not strictly necessary, including vacation travel. If you do decide to travel, make it as safe as possible by getting vaccinated, masking yourself, visiting outdoors or in well-ventilated areas, and staying home if you feel slightly uncomfortable.
- Take measures to make social gatherings in the private sphere as safe as possible. Take into account the vaccination status of everyone attending the gathering – for example, it is safest to only meet with people who are fully vaccinated as some children may not be eligible. Limit the size of your gathering to as few people as possible. The fewer people gather, the lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
- For all overnight guests, plan ahead to ensure that COVID-safe measures are in place. Take into account the vaccination status of everyone involved. Make a plan for how guests can safely self-isolate if they develop a symptom during their stay and know where to get a test.
- Practice safe retail behavior. Take into account roadside pickup and off-peak shopping hours.
- For people living in community facilities such as nursing homes, old people’s homes, or other facilities with vulnerable people, consider the vaccination status of those you may visit over the holidays and additional safety measures when you return, such as when you return home. B. Careful symptom monitoring and testing.
Public Health is again urging everyone to keep restricting your trips, getting vaccinated, wearing your mask, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated areas, and staying 2 meters away from anyone outside of your household. Monitor yourself for symptoms and stay home in the event of illness – even those who are mildly symptomatic should immediately self-isolate and have tests done to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community. When used carefully, COVID-safe measures will help limit the spread of COVID-19, including its worrying variants.
Public Health Sudbury & Districts will continue to review and evaluate the data and amend the instructions accordingly. Full details, including the detailed document with instructions, will be available shortly on phsd.ca. A detailed technical briefing (PDF) describing the current local COVID-19 circumstances can be found here.
For more information or if you have any questions about COVID-19 or vaccinations, please visit phsd.ca/COVID-19 or call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200 (toll free 1.866.522.9200).