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How Hamilton entered Ontario’s COVID-19 red level and what to expect

Don Mitchell / Global News

Hamilton will be one of a number of Ontario municipalities moving into the “control” red category of the province’s new COVID-19 response framework, effective Monday.

The decision was made by the Doug Ford government following a consultation with the city’s medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, on Friday, according to city officials.

Next week, local businesses and other facilities will see a tightening of rules for 28 days in the hopes of limiting the spread of the virus, which has now affected the lives of over 2,300 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in Hamilton since March.

Read more: Hamilton, Halton and York entering red level as Ontario lowers COVID-19 restrictions threshold

Richardson said 19 outbreaks and Hamilton’s seven-day average increase in new cases, 52, was paramount in the decision to go red.

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Under the province’s guidelines, the threshold for the red framework is 40 cases per 100,000 people.

Other markers that signalled red were the city’s per cent positivity rate of 3.0 which is above Ontario’s 2.5 percent maximum for the category and the reproduction number, measuring the spread of infections among individuals, was 1.25. The province’s ceiling is 1.0 for the reproduction number.

“We’re lucky that by far the majority of our cases, over 70 per cent, we’re still able to track and most are related to outbreaks as well as direct contact with case,” Richardson said.

“But we still have a worrisome level of community transmission.”

What a move to the red zone might look like on Monday

City officials didn’t have specifics on what the new restrictions and regulations will bring to the city on Monday.

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Emergency operations centre director Paul Johnson said the city will have to wait through the weekend to learn specifically from the province what can and can’t be done.

“We’re trying not to put out information now that might change when we go through and understand all of these all of the implications,” Johnson said.

City services and operations, such as water and disposal, will not be affected by the move into the red zone, according to Johnson, but recreation facilities will see changes.

“The biggest piece of change is going to be working with our hockey user groups,” said Johnson.

Read more: Coronavirus: Hamilton reports 46 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death at long-term care home

He went on to say applications to the city for events will likely be rescinded.

Dr. Richardson concurred with Johnson, saying recreational programs and team sports will likely only involve training. Games are expected to be put on hold.

Businesses like restaurants, bars, theatres and gyms are also likely to see significant changes come Monday when the province’s framework is completed.

Richardson anticipates limits on customers to be around 10 indoors and 25 outdoors, with dancing and singing prohibited.

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Personal service settings, restaurants, banquet halls and others will be required to screen customers upon entry.

Theatres, except drive-ins, and performing arts facilities could be closed come Monday, according to Richardson.

Read more: Coronavirus: Indicators pointed to further COVID-19 restrictions in Hamilton, top doc says

The province’s concept of social circles will also be set aside, according to Richardson. Individuals will be restricted to just close contacts in a household with those who live alone being allowed to join one other household for support.

“All in-person activities should be limited outside of the home to essential services only activities only,” Richardson said.

“So these include work, school, fitness and exercise, access to health care and the purchase of food, drink, gasoline and automobile maintenance.”

Four other Ontario regions — Halton, York, Toronto and Peel — are joining Hamilton in the red zone.

A change in status will be decided by the provincial government following a 28-day period using indicators based on the previous two weeks of information.

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