The regions that fall under the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit will move into the grey-lockdown zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework on Monday, March 1.
The decision to activate Ontario’s “emergency brake” in these regions was made due to what the province calls a “rapid worsening” in key local public health indicators, as well as a high presence of COVID-19 variants that continue to climb in Simcoe Muskoka.
The decision to move Simcoe Muskoka and Thunder Bay to grey-lockdown was made in consultation with the local medical health officers, Ontario’s chief medical officer and the provincial government.
“While we continue to see the number of cases and other public health indicators lowering in many regions across the province, the recent modelling shows us that we must be nimble and put in place additional measures,” Ontario health minister Christine Elliott said in a statement.
“With COVID-19 variants continuing to spread in our communities, it is critically important that everyone continues strictly adhering to all public health and workplace safety measures to help contain the virus.”
Currently, both the Simcoe Muskoka and Thunder Bay regions are under Ontario’s red-control zone of its coronavirus response framework, but more restrictions will come into place when the regions make Monday’s transition.
In a statement Friday, Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said tightening public health measures is “necessary” in Simcoe Muskoka and Thunder Bay due to “data and local context and conditions.”
On Tuesday, Simcoe Muskoka’s top doctor, Dr. Charles Gardner, told reporters he was considering asking the province to move his region into the grey-lockdown category amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
This week, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported a total of 169 new coronavirus cases. Last week, which began on Feb. 14, local public health reported 275 new COVID-19 cases, about a 30 per cent increase from the 211 cases reported during the week of Feb. 7.
As of Friday afternoon, the Simcoe Muskoka health unit reported 184 total cases of the COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant, which was first discovered in the U.K., and 290 total cases of a “variant of concern.” The number of variant cases in Simcoe Muskoka remains the highest in Ontario.
Thunder Bay public health has also reported a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, with the incidence rate being 108.7 per 100,000 last week, between Feb. 14 and 20. During the week of Feb. 7 to 13, the weekly incidence rate was 75.4 per 100,000.
What you can and can’t do under grey-lockdown in Simcoe Muskoka, Thunder Bay
Events and social gatherings
No indoor events and gatherings are permitted, except among members of the same household. Those living alone may consider having close contact with one other household to reduce the negative effects of social isolation.
Outdoors gatherings are limited to 10 people.
Religious services and ceremonies, including weddings and funerals, are limited to 10 people indoors and 10 people outdoors.
Restaurants and bars
Indoor and outdoor dining is prohibited. Takeout, drive-thru services and delivery, including for alcohol, are allowed.
Sports and fitness centres
Indoor and outdoor sports and fitness centres are closed, except for high performance athletes and for specified purposes (including day camps and childcare).
Outdoor recreational amenities like ice rinks, ski hills and snow trails can open with restrictions.
Community centres and multi-purpose facilities can stay open for permitted activities like childcare, day camps and social services.
Meeting and event spaces
Meeting and event spaces are closed, with exceptions for childcare and day camps, court services, government services, mental health and addiction services, and the provision of social services.
In-person shopping is allowed at all retail stores with capacity limits. Supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies must operate at 50 per cent capacity, while all other retailers, including big box stores, must operate at 25 per cent capacity.
Curbside pickup and delivery is allowed.
Retailers must publicly post capacity limits and passively screen customers. Indoor malls must actively screen patrons before they enter.
Personal care services
All personal care services must close.
Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments
All casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments must close.
All cinemas must close, except for drive-in theatres and for those rehearsing or performing a recorded or broadcasted event, with restrictions.
A safety plan must be in place and available upon request.
Performing arts centres
Performing arts facilities must close to spectators.
Rehearsing or performing a recorded or broadcasted event is permitted with restrictions.
Drive-in performances are permitted.
A safety plan must be in place and made available on request.
Amusement and water parks
Amusement and water parks must close.
Veterinary services and other businesses that provide for the health and welfare of animals (farms, boarding kennels, stables, animal shelters and research centres) can stay open.
Businesses that provide services for the training and provision of service animals are allowed to remain open.
Pet grooming, pet-sitting, pet walking and training services are allowed to operate.
Bathhouses and sex clubs
Bathhouses and sex clubs must close.
Boarding kennels and stables
Boarding kennels and stables are permitted to open for an animal’s owner or representative for visits, care, feeding, and riding when applicable.
Short-term campground rentals that were reserved on or before Nov. 22, 2020, are allowed. No new reservations after Nov. 22, 2020, are allowed, except for those who are in need of housing.
Campgrounds are open for trailers and recreational vehicles that are used by people in need of housing or are allowed to be there by the terms of a full season contract.
Only campsites with electricity, water service and sewage disposal may be provided for use.
All recreational and communal facilities at campgrounds, except washrooms and showers, must close.
Cannabis retailers are permitted to do curbside pickup and delivery.
In-person driving lessons aren’t allowed.
Domestic, cleaning and maintenance services are allowed, including housekeepers, cooks, nannies, personal affairs management and domestic personnel.
Outdoor cleaning and maintenance services are allowed.
Hotels and motels can operate, but their pools, fitness centres, meeting rooms and other recreational facilities must close.
Libraries can stay open for curbside pickup and delivery.
Patrons are allowed to enter libraries for contactless drop-off and pickup and to access computers or photocopiers.
Libraries can also stay open for permitted services like day camp, childcare, mental health and addiction services, and the provision of social services.
There’s no classes running at libraries.
Marinas, golf courses, boat clubs and driving ranges
Marinas and boat clubs can stay open. Clubhouses, restaurants, pools, meeting rooms, fitness centres and other recreation facilities must close with limited exceptions.
Indoor golf courses and driving ranges must close, but outdoor ones can stay open.
Indoor shooting ranges must close.
Motorsports must close.
Museums must close to the public but are permitted to host drive-in or drive-thru services.
Nightclubs can only open if they operate as a restaurant or bar providing takeout, drive-thru or delivery services.
In-person personal services aren’t permitted, including personal shoppers, party planners, organizer services, personal trainers and housesitters.
Real estate agencies
Real estate agencies are permitted to operate, but property showings must be by appointment only.
Existing reservations as of Nov. 22, 2020, are honoured regardless of when the rental occurs. No new reservations after Nov. 22, 2020, are allowed, except for those who are in need of housing.
This doesn’t apply to hotels, motels, lodges, resorts and other shared rental accommodation, including student housing.
Strip clubs are only allowed to open if they operate as a restaurant or bar that provides takeout or delivery services.
Zoos and aquariums
Zoos and aquariums must close to the public, except for drive-thru or drive-in events. They’re also permitted to operate for the care of animals.