Ontario health units reinstating capacity limits, mulling tougher COVID measures

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The CANADIAN PRESS

With COVID cases rising in Sault Ste. Marie, the Algoma Public Health Unit is implementing restrictions to prevent more infections and protect the health system.

“I continue to urge all Algoma residents to take immediate action to stop this surge of transmission, and help protect the vulnerable members of our community, and preserve our health care capacity,” Dr. Jennifer Loo, the area’s medical officer of health, said in a written statement.

“Stay home if you have any symptoms, cut down on gatherings and encounters where you have unmasked, face-to-face close contact with people you don’t live with, and please get fully immunized and help others to do so.”

Loo has ordered businesses in the Sault Ste. Marie area to reinstate capacity limits lifted by the provincial government last month. Masks must also be worn indoors and outdoors at businesses and organized events where people can’t keep two metres apart.

Loo also issued an order requiring people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, or identified close contacts of an infected person, to isolate or be fined up to $5,000 per day.

The health unit said COVID-19 activity is currently “the highest that it has ever been since the beginning of the pandemic,” with 155 active cases as of Sunday and a rate of 121 cases per 100,000 people.

Sault Area Hospital CEO Ila Watson said the surge in hospital admissions that’s anticipated to continue “may lead to the cancellation of elective surgeries and procedures.”

Eighty-six per cent of eligible people in the Algoma health unit were considered fully vaccinated as of Monday, according to provincial data.

Last week, the public health unit covering Sudbury, Ont., also reinstated capacity limits based on an unprecedented surge in cases.

Elsewhere in the province, the Southwestern public health unit was also considering adopting new measures as of Monday.

St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, one of three hospitals in the region, said it’s facing a dire situation, with the highest number of patients requiring critical care since the start of the pandemic.

“We have reached our capacity to care for critically ill patients and our hospital is operating above capacity – both of which are the direct result of COVID-19,” Dr. Waleed Chehadi, chief of staff at the hospital, said in a written statement.

“COVID -19 admissions have risen significantly over the course of the week and are expected to continue to rise over the next several weeks. The reality of this means patients will need to be transferred to other hospitals and receiving care outside of the community.”

Premier Doug Ford has said he wants to avoid bringing in broad lockdowns again and if any eased public health measures need to be brought back in, that will be done in a localized way.

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