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Enhanced COVID-19 restrictions in place for Timmins area until at least June 24: top doc

The area is not entering the first stage of reopening with the rest of the province
2021-06-01 Lianne Catton Screenshot
Lianne Catton during a virtual media call Tuesday, June 1.

TIMMINS - The COVID-19 restrictions currently in place will remain in the Porcupine Health Unit region until at least June 24.

When Ontario enters the first stage of the Roadmap to Reopening on Friday, June 11, the restrictions are not loosening in Timmins and other communities across the health unit region. 

Today, PHU medical officer of health Dr. Lianne Catton said many of the restrictions currently in place will remain in effect until at least Thursday, June 24. The Porcupine Health Unit region is the only place in Ontario staying under the emergency brake restrictions.

“At this point in time, it’s simple. The situation in the Porcupine Health Unit, the numbers, the cases, the outbreaks, the modelling of the Delta variant — which is absolutely alarming and very, very concerning for us all — does not support easing the current restrictions,” she said.

The main ones she highlighted are:

  • Restricting indoor organized public events and social gatherings 
  • Restrictions on in-person shopping in most retail settings. Curbside pickup and delivery will continue. Essential retail stores such as grocery stores and pharmacies can operate with 25 per cent capacity.
  • Indoor and outdoor dining restricted at restaurants

More detailed information on the restrictions is expected later today.

In the last couple of months, Catton said the pandemic has not gone well for the region.

To date, there have been 1,724 confirmed cases of the virus. Of those, 1,336  are recovered and 27 people have died. There are 361 known active cases.

At Timmins and District Hospital, there are currently 14 patients admitted to hospital, including five people in ICU. There are 46 patients who have been tested and are waiting for their test results, according to the hospital's update today. The average age of the admitted patients is 54 years.

This week, a second confirmed case of the more transmissible Delta variant.

Keeping the restrictions in place is to minimize person-to-person interactions.

“This is absolutely critical. COVID-19 travels when we interact with one another and we have seen at record rates with the variants of concern, first the B.1.1.7 and now we’re certain likely quite a few increased cases and spread of the Delta variant. Minimizing person-to-person interaction, limiting interactions with those we don’t live with is how we’re going to get through this. This is how we’re going to contain that spread,” said Catton.

In the previous regional, colour-coded restrictions for the province it allowed for an emergency brake to enhance restrictions. The new Roadmap to Reopening does not include this. 

“We have asked for that, unfortunately, that’s not a consideration at this point in time with the reopening framework and so we’re left making the decision and really taking this hard step to protect our region,” she said.

Catton said she has support from Ontario's chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams and other medical officers of health across the province to extend the restrictions.

The new Roadmap to Reopening is a three-stage plan based on provincial vaccination rates along with key public health indicators. Each stage will last at least 21 days.

For the Porcupine Health Unit region, Catton doesn't expect it will be able to make any movement on loosening restrictions before June 24. 

She said the region needs to see cases come down, exposures decrease and to make sure there are capacities in many sectors to open up. 

Because the region is considered a COVID-19 Delta variant hotspot, the province has accelerated access to second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

People who are 16 years and older who had a first dose of an mRNA vaccine at least 28 days ago can now book an appointment for their second dose.

The second dose guidance for AstraZeneca is still for a 12-week interval between doses.