Both Niagara Region and Brant County will move into the red-control level of the province’s COVID-19 response framework as of 12:01 a.m. Monday.
Ontario made the announcement Friday afternoon following a meeting with health officials.
Niagara reported 442 active cases on Friday, a single-day record for active infections. The region also recorded four new deaths.
Following the declaration, St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik called the move “unfortunate” but admitted the region had reached a “tipping” point.
“We’re seeing our health-care system on the verge of being overwhelmed, and that is not a place that anybody wants to be,” said Sendzik.
Niagara-on-the-Lake mayor Betty Disero characterized the setback as “frustrating” but said there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel with the recent vaccine approvals.
Last weekend, public health recorded consecutive highs in daily cases with 65 on Saturday and 71 on Sunday.
The region also saw active outbreaks rise to 20 on Friday with six at long-term care homes and two in Niagara Health hospital units.
Meanwhile, Brant County’s acting medical officer of health hinted in her weekly address on Tuesday the region would be headed for a downgrade on Friday.
Dr. Elizabeth Urbantke said new highs in local case counts over the past week put the region “firmly” in the red-control classification.
“Over the last four days, we’ve seen 40 per cent of cases attributed to close contact transmission,” Urbantke said in her address.
“We’re definitely seeing an increase in the amount of community transmission cases throughout this period.”
Brant County reported 95 new COVID-19 cases last week. There are 106 active cases as of Dec. 18 with two people receiving hospital care.
The region has now had 709 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.
Some of the new restrictions in a move from orange to red include:
- limits of five for public indoor gatherings
- maximum of 10 people indoors at restaurants, mall food courts, bars and event spaces
- no dancing, singing or live music at bars and event spaces
- Maximum of 10 at indoor fitness studios.
- no team sports except for training (no scrimmages)
- retail stores must maintain two-metre distance between those in line
- all movie theatres and performing arts facilities are closed except for drive-ins