Windsor-Essex moving to 'red' category of COVID-19 restrictions
Windsor-Essex goes from green category to red in just over thee weeks
Windsor-Essex is becoming a "red" zone as of Monday following a dramatic escalation in COVID-19 cases this month.
It's the third straight week the region has moved up a category that mandates tighter pandemic restrictions on activities and behaviour.
Yet another bump-up "hurts" says Mayor Drew Dilkins, but he called on the community to pull together to protect each other.
"The fact that we have moved three times in the past three weeks is an obvious indicator that the situation in our region is significant, and getting worse," he said in a statement.
"It hurts having to take another step back, but that's what we'll do, and together we'll regroup as a community and refocus our efforts on keeping each other safe."
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott announced the decision Friday afternoon as Windsor-Essex was one of five regions placed in new categories.
"Over the last week we have seen a shift in the trends of key public health indicators in regions across the province, and by moving these five regions to a new level in the framework, we can ensure that the necessary targeted measures are in place to stop the spread of the virus and allow us to keep our schools and businesses open."
The "control - red" category is the second-highest tier of public health restrictions in the province's COVID-19 response framework. The next step would be a full lockdown.
Under red-level restrictions, indoor dining is limited to 10 people and dining must close at 10 p.m., with alcohol sales ending an hour earlier. Gyms are limited to 10 patrons at a time, and indoor social gatherings have a limit of five people.
A full list of the restrictions is available here.
The announcement follows weeks of rising COVID-19 cases in the region. As recently as early November, Windsor-Essex was in the "prevent - green" restrictions category, the least strict tier.
There are currently 354 active cases in the region, 51 of which were announced earlier on Friday.
Two schools are shut down due to outbreaks, and there are four outbreaks in long-term care or retirement facilities.
In response to the surge in cases, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit announced Friday that it will be adding at least 17 staff, including COVID-19 investigators.
The move to the red tier of restrictions was anticipated. Dr. Wajid Ahmed, the region's medical officer of health, said Wednesday that Windsor-Essex technically meets the criteria though that call would be made by the province.
Sarnia-Lambton will move into the yellow "protect" level starting Monday, according to Lambton Public Health.
Response from city
In a news release Friday, the City of Windsor said that it will be taking additional measures beyond those mandated by the red level.
It said will suspend recreational services in pools, arenas and community centres for a two-week period starting Sunday. The suspension will be reassessed after two weeks.
Concerns from businesses
Earlier this week, one business owner, Tom Lucier of Phog Lounge, said he can't keep up with how quickly the rules and regulations have evolved.
"Right now, they're essentially closing us without closing us and we're jumping through hoops day-to-day and it's just not fair, it's kind of silly," he said.
Caesars Windsor casino told CBC News that it would temporarily close on Monday due to the new restrictions.
Brian Yeomans, chair of the Downtown Windsor BIA, previously told CBC News he's heard concerns and frustration from members.
"[Businesses] did a fantastic job through the summer and making sure that everything was safe, they followed all those guidelines, they followed all the rules," he said.
"And when things aren't getting better, they're the ones that are still being punished instead of people that are having these house parties, that are leaving and going and doing other things and that's infuriating."