Further Mandatory Measures to Lower Social Gathering Limits, Increase Masking and Physical Distancing Requirements, and Restrict High Risk Close Contact Activities
Due to ongoing extremely high COVID-19 activity in Algoma, and especially in the municipality of Sault Ste. Marie, Algoma Public Health is taking further action to curb the spread of the virus, prevent severe illness and death in our communities, and protect health system capacity.
Algoma’s Medical Officer of Health, with the support of the provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health, is taking the following actions.
1. Restricting the number of attendees at social gatherings and organized public events to a maximum number of 10 people indoors, and 25 people outdoors.
- The Medical Officer of Health has issued a Section 22 Class Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, effective for Sault Ste. Marie on Monday, November 29, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. This class order is in effect until Tuesday December 28, 2021 at 11:59 p.m., and may be amended, rescinded, or extended as the situation evolves.
- These limits apply to social gatherings whether they are held in private settings, like homes and apartments, or at places like restaurants and meeting and event spaces.
- These limits apply to social gatherings that happen before or after weddings, funerals, and religious services and ceremonies; the limits do not apply to the wedding, funeral, or religious service or ceremony itself (but physical distancing requirements do apply, as do other capacity limits, depending on the place where the ceremony is held).
- Workplace events that are held by businesses or organizations only for core purposes, like training events or continuing education sessions are not considered “organized public events.”
- The vast majority of people impacted with COVID-19 do the right thing and follow isolation requirements carefully; public health enforcement is a tool of last resort.
- Not complying with this legal order is an offence and a person may be liable for a set fine of $750 or otherwise of up to $5,000 per day or part of each day that the offence continues, on conviction.
2. Requiring Sault Ste. Marie businesses and organizations to put in strengthened masking and physical distancing requirements, and prohibiting certain high risk close contact activities.
- The Medical Officer of Health has issued an amended Letter of Instructions under the Reopening Ontario Act, effective Monday November 29 at 12:01 a.m. in the municipality of Sault Ste. Marie. These requirements will likely stay in effect for a 28-day period, depending on how local COVID-19 activity changes.
- Coworkers who are sharing the same room or workspace must remain masked at all times, unless they are separated by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier. This is because people are not able to maintain physical distancing very well when they are in indoor spaces together, especially for long periods of time.
- Workplaces are reminded of the existing provincial requirement that workers who remove their masks to eat or drink must be separated from others by 2 metres or an impermeable barrier. Workers are also required by current provincial rules to wear PPE (i.e. medical mask and eye protection) if they are providing services within 2 metres of an unmasked client.
- In indoor and outdoor sport and recreational facilities, every person in a fitness or exercise class must maintain a physical distance of 3 metres from every other person; and team sports or games must not be played or practiced unless they have been modified to avoid personal contact. Limited exceptions apply to professional and elite sport leagues or associations.
- No personal care services that require the removal of a mask or face covering may be provided at businesses that provide personal care services like hair salons, barbershops, manicure and pedicure salons, aesthetician services, piercing services, tanning salons, spas, and tattoo studios.
- Film and TV production sets must be set up to allow every person to maintain physical distancing, except where necessary for the filming of the film or TV production.
- Anyone singing or playing a brass or wind instrument in a concert venue or theatre must be separated from every other person by 3 metres or an impermeable barrier.
- Please read the Letter of Instructions carefully to see how it applies to your business or organization.
3. Suspending close contact extracurricular activities in schools for 28 days
- The Medical Officer of Health has issued a Letter of Recommendations under the Reopening Ontario Act, to directors of education and school boards in Algoma.
- Schools in Sault Ste. Marie are strongly recommended to suspend all extracurricular activities for the next 28 calendar days, unless they are activities where participants can be both masked and physically distanced at all times.
- School boards with schools that are close to Sault Ste. Marie or close to other regions of high COVID-19 transmission may also choose to implement this recommendation as appropriate for the school community, and with consultation and risk assessment support from Algoma Public Health.
- Algoma Public Health is also working closely with all school boards to put protective measures in place in schools across Algoma. This includes new forthcoming measures such as voluntary rapid antigen testing, as well as strengthening existing measures such as daily symptom screening, excluding anyone with symptoms, and excluding unimmunized children under 12 who have returned from international travel from attending school for 14 days after their return.
The goals of the pandemic response have always been two-fold: to minimize serious illness and death, and to limit disruption to society and preserve health care capacity. At this point in time, over 75% of Algoma’s total population are fully immunized and have good protection against severe disease from COVID-19. Over 22,000 Algoma residents are not yet fully immunized, however, and nearly 13,000 are residents of Sault Ste. Marie, where rates of new COVID-19 cases remain among the highest in the province.
To protect those most vulnerable in our community, and to prevent the present surge of cases from overwhelming local health services, these interim mandatory measures target high risk close contact activities and strengthen protections in all settings, without disrupting vital in-person learning activities, or impacting local businesses through broad closures.
“I continue to urge all Algoma residents to take immediate action to stop this surge of transmission, and help protect the vulnerable members of our community, and preserve our health care capacity,” says Dr. Jennifer Loo, Medical Officer of Health.
“Work remotely if you can, stay home if you have any symptoms, limit gatherings and encounters where you have unmasked, face-to-face close contact with people you don’t live with, and please get fully immunized and help others to do so. Walk-in and scheduled COVID-19 vaccine appointments are available at clinics and participating pharmacies for all eligible Algoma residents.”
Increased Community Transmission of COVID-19 in Algoma
On Friday, November 26, 2021, Algoma Public Health reached a milestone of over 1,000 cases of COVID-19 reported since the onset of the pandemic.
- COVID-19 activity in Algoma is the highest that it has ever been since the beginning of the pandemic. Algoma’s rate of new COVID-19 cases is among the highest in Ontario at this time. As of November 25th, there are 258 active cases in Algoma, with 14 hospitalizations. In the 7-day period from November 19-25, rates of new COVID-19 cases in Algoma were at 160.8 cases per 100,000 population, with a most recent percent positivity of 3.4%. By comparison, in early October, 7-day incidence was less than 5 cases per 100,000 population and percent positivity was less than 0.5%.
- All communities across the Algoma district are at risk because people continue to routinely travel between communities. In the past 14 days, COVID-19 has been confirmed in residents of Sault Ste. Marie & Area, and Central & East Algoma. Recent rates of new cases have been highest in Sault Ste. Marie & Area. A significant number of cases can be traced to exposures from other health units and internationally.
- Algoma residents of all ages have been affected, with higher rates of infection in younger adults and children. In a recent 7-day period (November 19-25), 35% of Algoma cases were in people 20 to 39, 25% were in children aged 0-19, 24% were in people aged 40-59, 13% were in people aged 60-79, and 2% were in people over the age of 80.
- Although fully immunized people are very well protected from getting severe disease and needing hospitalization from COVID-19, they can still get sick from COVID-19 and spread the infection to others who may be more vulnerable. Since October 1st and as of November 25, among Algoma residents with COVID-19 infections, there have been 38 hospitalizations, of which 26 cases (68.4%) were not fully immunized, and 12 cases (31.6%) were fully immunized.
- In that same time period, of the Algoma residents with COVID-19 infection who needed ICU care, over 70% were not fully immunized.
- Data on local cases and their vaccination status is preliminary and highly subject to change.