Health unit east of Ottawa ready to implement more COVID-19 restrictions
Dr. Paul Roumeliotis pushing back on premier's comments that he's 'passing the buck'
The medical officer of health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is pushing back on Premier Doug Ford's comments that health units are "passing the buck" when they ask the province to put in COVID-19 restrictions in their areas, rather than issuing their own.
Medical officers of health can issue a Class Section 22 order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act to implement rules for the pandemic.
In a media briefing Wednesday, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said he had asked the province to impose restrictions in his region, similar to those put in Ontario's hot spots earlier this month.
The case numbers in his unit east of Ottawa, covering communities such as Hawkesbury and Cornwall, have been climbing: 156 active cases as of Thursday, with more cases in September and October than the rest of the pandemic combined.
In his own media event Thursday, the premier called those medical officers of health out. Ford said he would not be issuing any new regulations and instead suggested the health units issue Class Section 22 orders themselves.
"Sometimes, I feel like some regions want to pass the buck. And I'll be the bad guy, I have no problem. I'm the premier, I'm responsible, I'll be accountable," Ford said.
"But some regions pass the buck and say, 'no, no, you do it. I don't want to be the bad guy.'"
EOHU to issue a Section 22 order
Roumeliotis said that is simply not true.
"I do not agree with that at all," he said. "I was prepared to act ... I was trying to see what the most efficient way of doing it."
Roumeliotis said one of the reasons he was asking the province to issue regulations was because those regulations are easier to enforce than an order made by him.
Provincial regulations give police at all levels the power to enforce the rules, whereas with a Section 22 order, health inspectors have to go through a judge to get permission or a warrant, he said.
Roumeliotis said he now plans to issue that order Friday, but it won't come into effect until sometime early next week.
"I will be sitting down and finalizing it. As a matter of fact, we have a draft ready to go, it was just a matter of when. I wouldn't want to impose things in the middle of a weekend," he said.
That would mean that restaurants could stay open but their capacity would be restricted to 100 people, and six people at a table.
Exercise classes would be limited to 10, and 50 people total would be allowed in gyms. Meeting and banquet halls would also be limited to 50.
"We want to limit the amount of people getting together at one given time, just because we're seeing the numbers increase in our area," Roumeliotis said