Waterloo region now in 'red zone' while Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph remains 'orange'
Social gatherings can have no more than 5 people indoors and 25 people outdoors
As of 12:01 a.m. Monday, Waterloo region is officially in the "red zone" of the province's COVID-19 framework.
On Friday, Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed that Waterloo region and Durham region were the two areas in Ontario making the move to red, while Toronto and Peel region were moved into the "grey zone" or lockdown.
Being in the red means many more restrictions for businesses, including fewer people being allowed to dine at local restaurants and the closure of movie theatres.
There are new measures in place that limit social gatherings.
"For regions in the red control level, the limit for all organized public events and social gatherings has been lowered to five people indoors and 25 people outdoors," Elliott said Friday.
For staff, essential care givers and support workers who provide direct care to people in long-term care homes, they will now need to get tested weekly.
Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region's medical officer of health, says she advocated for the region to be in the red zone due to the rapid acceleration of new cases in the area.
For the last week, Wang has been advising people in the region to start following red — or control — zone measures, including not gathering with anyone outside their households and only leaving the home for essential trips like work, school, going to the grocery store or to get exercise.
"When the circulation of COVID-19 has never been higher in Waterloo region, I continue to urge for the time being that all residents only leave home for essential purposes," Wang said on Friday during a media briefing.
That means people can go out for groceries, work, school, or exercise outdoors but they cannot have birthday parties, coffee dates, sleep-overs or game nights.
Businesses can access cash
Also on Friday, Finance Minister Rod Phillips announced rebates will be available to businesses in the region that are impacted by the move into the red zone. The money will help cover property tax and energy bills, he said.
Businesses in Waterloo region can apply starting Tuesday. The funding will cover the length of time businesses are temporarily closed or severely restricted, he said.
"I urge every eligible business owner whether you're in Peel, Toronto, as well as York, Hamilton, Halton and now Durham and Waterloo regions to apply for the support," Phillips said.
He said the province will continue to work with the federal government to cover fixed costs for businesses impacted by the pandemic.
Phillips said there's also grant money available for businesses who need help covering the cost of personal protective equipment. Details can be found on the province's COVID-19 support website.
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph still in 'orange'
The communities covered by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health remain in the "orange zone" which is the "restrict" level.
Dr. Nicola Mercer, the CEO and medical officer of health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, said she felt a spike in cases, particularly in the Mennonite community in Wellington County, were being brought under control.
Though Mercer also said people still need to limit social interactions with people outside their homes.
"It's become really clear that there are certain behaviours and drivers of this pandemic that people aren't really clear about," Mercer said.
"I've heard lots of talk about bubbles from people and they tell me that they have a work bubble, a gym bubble, a home bubble and school bubble. And we think, well, no, you have too many people in your life."
Mercer says she doesn't think the community needs to move to the red zone and she hopes to avoid moving to it.
Staff, essential care givers and support workers who provide direct care to people in long-term care homes in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph will also now undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.