Much of Ontario opens, Niagara stays Grey

Much of Ontario is opening up from lockdown and going back onto the province’s COVID-19 response framework’s Red Zone, but Niagara Region is not one of them.

Niagara is the lone municipality of the 27 which received an upgrade – scheduled for Feb. 16 – to move to Grey Zone. All others, including Hamilton, which will move to red zone will move into red, orange, yellow, or green.

This will mean, for example, retailers deemed essential – supermarkets and other stores that primarily sell groceries, convenience stores – can open up to 50 per cent capacity.

Non-essential retail – such as discount and big box retailers, liquor stores, hardware stores, garden centres – can re-open to 25 per cent capacity.

The Grey designation also means Niagara’s beleaguered restaurant industry will remain closed to indoor dining.

Hair salons, photo and yoga studios, gyms and barber shops must also remain closed.

No explanation was provided in the provincial press release regarding data to support this decision.

“In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health (Dr. David Williams), the Ontario government is transitioning 27 public health regions out of the shutdown and into a revised and strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open (the “Framework”). The four remaining public health regions, Toronto Public Health, Peel Public Health, York Region Public Health and North Bay Parry Sound District, will remain in the shutdown, and the Stay-at-Home order and all existing public health and workplace safety measures will continue to apply to these four public health regions,” reads the provincial release.

Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff noted the decision for Niagara was made after consultations between Williams and Niagara’s medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji. Then the decision was made to keep Niagara in Grey.

“My understanding is that this decision was made by Dr. Williams on the advice of our local medical officer of Health, Dr. Hirji. This is obviously disappointing for many people, especially given that Niagara’s numbers have been trending in the right direction. However, I understand that there were a number of factors considered,” said Oosterhoff.
Among those factors which were part of the decision-making process were:
  • Weekly incidence rate is 40 per 100,000 or more
  • Percent positivity is 2.5% or more
  • Rt is 1.2 or more
  • Repeated outbreaks in multiple sectors and settings, increasing number of large outbreaks
  • Level of community transmission and non-epidemiologically linked cases remains high
  • Hospital and ICU capacity at risk of being overwhelmed
  • Public health unit capacity for case and contact management at risk or overwhelmed
  • The advice of our Niagara Medical Officer of Health”


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