As Greater Sudbury continues to experience a rapidly rising number of COVID-19 cases, that district's medical officer of health is reverting back to some Stage 3 public health measures, effective Wednesday.
“Greater Sudbury is experiencing a spike in people testing positive for COVID-19. The timing of the increases is aligned with the lifting of provincial protections, beginning October 9, and currently, we have the highest case rates in the province by far,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe.
“The provincial Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario requires local public health to monitor trends and to put in place additional protections as warranted. Obviously, no one wants to hear this news, but we need to turn back the clock and protect people and the health system. We are implementing these protections as a ‘circuit-breaker,’ in an effort to interrupt chains of transmission within the community and protect local businesses and workers by — we hope — avoiding any need for more drastic measures,” added Dr. Sutcliffe.
Public Health Sudbury & Districts reported 122 new positive cases of COVID-19 over the weekend.
Instructions from Sutcliffe issued under the provincial Reopening Ontario Act require Greater Sudbury businesses and organizations to reinstate protections recently lifted by the province. These time-limited measures come into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, November 10, for Greater Sudbury only.
These measures include reinstating capacity limits and related physical distancing requirements, strengthening masking requirements at organized public events held indoors and outdoors, and requiring proof of vaccination for anyone aged 12 and older actively participating in organized sports (not just coaches, officials, etc.).
In late October, the Medical Officer of Health for the neighbouring North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, Dr. Jim Chirico, strongly recommended that a risk assessment be part of someone’s decision-making regarding travel out-of-district and, Tuesday, in light of the escalating cases in Greater Sudbury, he doubled down on that recommendation.
"For those who do choose to travel, I ask that you continue to wear a face covering when required, practice physical distancing, wash or sanitize your hands often and if you feel unwell stay home and get tested for COVID-19. These measures are particularly important if you or people around you are not fully vaccinated," Chirico advised.
He added, "There currently are no travel restrictions in place, however, I do recommend that individuals consider the risk before they travel. It is important that individuals consider if a shopping or other non-essential trip is worth the potential risk of being exposed to COVID-19."
On Friday, November 5, Public Health Sudbury & Districts reached a milestone of 3,000 cases of COVID-19 reported since the onset of the pandemic. Public Health reported an additional 27 cases on Saturday, November 6, and 34 cases on Sunday, November 7, 2021. With 219 cases currently active, PHSD is recording the highest rate of active cases among all of the province’s 34 health units and the highest seen locally since April 2020.
The 14-day rate of new cases (incidence rate) is almost double that of the next highest public health unit in Ontario — 151.5 per 100,000 as compared to 92.7 per 100,000. The recent surge is in Greater Sudbury, and as no single setting or sector is driving the increase, broad measures are required to reduce the number of contacts people have with each other. Transmission is widespread — especially in those aged 18 to 39, for whom vaccination rates are low and case rates are high—and Greater Sudbury is experiencing a record number of COVID-19 outbreaks.
“Our current situation is alarming now but could get even worse with winter months and more indoor activities ahead of us. We are in a very different place than the rest of the province. In addition to the current requirements in the regulation, the reinstatement of additional mandatory measures, and the class order I issued recently, I am also asking everyone to work from home where possible, minimize their outings to what’s really essential, get tested if you are even mildly unwell, and if you have to or choose to interact face-to-face with others, take all the precautions you can. Consider the number of people and the vaccination status of your potential contacts,” said Dr. Sutcliffe. “I am appealing to everyone in Greater Sudbury to ramp up your COVID-19 prevention actions—help us keep kids in school, protect vulnerable individuals, and safeguard our health system capacity.”
The Letter of Instruction will require for Greater Sudbury:
- Reinstatement of capacity limits and physical distancing requirements at premises that require proof of vaccination, while preserving their proof of vaccination requirements.
- Businesses and organizations to ensure masking at organized public events held indoors and outdoors where participants are within two metres of individuals not part of their households.
- Anyone 12 years of age and older who actively participates in organized sports (not just coaches, officials, etc.) will be required to provide proof of vaccination unless a medical exemption applies. This additional requirement will also be implemented for the broader Public Health service area.
According to PHSD, "COVID-19 surges can happen anywhere and can happen quickly. The virus knows no borders and these additional protective measures will help reduce the spread of the virus to surrounding communities and protect the vulnerable and the health systems throughout the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts and beyond. In addition to the Instructions, Public Health Sudbury & Districts is exploring targeted COVID-19 rapid antigen screening in schools (Government of Ontario) for Greater Sudbury, in partnership with boards of education. Enforcement activity continues in collaboration with partners including City of Greater Sudbury by-law, and the Greater Sudbury Police Service."