County allowed to re-open Wednesday

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Renfrew County will be one of just three regions across Ontario to re-open Wednesday.

Premier Doug Ford announced Monday that the province will extend its shutdown and “stay at home” orders in most of Ontario’s public health regions, except three – Renfrew County and District, Hastings and Prince Edward County, and Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington.

Most other public health regions will have the shutdown extended by a week to Tuesday, February 16.

Toronto, Peel and York Regions will remain in lockdown until at least Monday, February 22.

“When it is safe to do so, the province will gradually transition each region from the shutdown measures to a revised and strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework,” the province said.

“Our number one priority will always be protecting the health and safety of all individuals, families and workers across the province,” said Premier Ford.

“But we must also consider the severe impact COVID-19 is having on our businesses. That’s why we have been listening to business owners, and we are strengthening and adjusting the Framework to allow more businesses to safely reopen and get people back to work.”

The province said that to support the province’s economic recovery, the government has updated the Framework to allow for a “safer approach” to retail.

Limited in-person shopping in Grey-Lockdown zones will be permitted with public health and safety measures, such as limiting capacity to 25 per cent in most retail settings.

In addition, public health and safety measures in retail settings will be strengthened for other levels of the Framework. Individuals will also be required to wear a face covering and maintain physical distance when indoors in a business, with limited exceptions.

Renfrew County, Hastings and the Kingston regions will move to the “Green-Prevent” level as of 12:01 am Wednesday and will not longer be subject to the “stay at home” order, the province said.

Under the “Green-Prevent” zone, social gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors or 25 outdoors, while “organized public events and gatherings” in staffed businesses and facilities, where physical distancing can be maintained can have up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

Businesses like restaurants and bars will be allowed to re-open, as long as patrons remain seated and there is a minimum of 2 metres between tables.

New for “Green-Prevent” as of February 2021, stores must have “passive screening” for patrons (for example, posting signs outside the store front about not entering if you have COVID-19 symptoms).

This does not apply to indoor malls, which will have to do screening in accordance with instructions by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Recognizing the risk posed by new variants to the province’s pandemic response, Ontario is also introducing an “emergency brake” to allow for immediate action if a public health unit region experiences rapid acceleration in COVID-19 transmission or if its health care system risks becoming overwhelmed.

If this occurs, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in consultation with the local medical officer of health, may advise immediately moving a region into “Grey-Lockdown” to interrupt transmission.

The province said that while the “stay at home” order will be lifted Wednesday for some regions, “everyone is strongly advised to continue to stay at home, avoid social gatherings, minimize travel between areas with different rules, and limit close contacts to their household.”

“Employers in all industries should continue to make every effort to allow employees to work from home.”

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