Extension of Mandatory Measures Algoma-wide due to Threat of Omicron and Ongoing High COVID-19 Transmission

Due to ongoing extremely high COVID-19 activity in Algoma, especially in the municipality of Sault Ste. Marie, and increasingly in other Algoma communities, 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.

 

At this time, the Omicron variant of concern is also suspected and presumed to be present in Algoma, and prompt protective actions are needed due to Omicron’s ability to spread very rapidly.

Extending Mandatory Measures to All Algoma Communities served by APH

  • The number of attendees at social gatherings and organized public events is restricted to a maximum number of 10 people indoors, and 25 people outdoors
    • The Medical Officer of Health has issued a Section 22 Class Order (bottom of page) under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, effective for all Algoma communities served by APH on Friday, December 17, 2021, at 12:01 a.m.  This class order is issued following consultation with and support from the provincial Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and is in effect until Sunday, January 16, 2022, at 11:59 p.m.  The order may be amended, rescinded, or extended as the situation evolves.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.
  • Algoma businesses and organizations are required to put in strengthened masking and physical distancing requirements, and certain high-risk close contact activities are prohibited
    • The Medical Officer of Health has issued an amended Letter of Instructions (at bottom of page) under the Reopening Ontario Act, effective Friday, December 17 at 12:01 a.m. for all Algoma communities served by APH.  These instructions are issued in consultation with and with the support of the provincial Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.  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 sports 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 (bottom of page) carefully to see how it applies to your business or organization.

Increasing 3rd Dose COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics in December for Algoma Residents at Highest Risk

  • Emerging evidence suggests that although two doses of COVID-19 vaccines still provide protection against severe disease and hospitalization from Omicron, vaccine effectiveness is reduced against this new variant, and two doses of vaccine do not provide strong protection against symptomatic infection.  This means that people who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine can still be infected with the Omicron strain, and spread the infection to others.
  • All Algoma residents are strongly urged to get a 3rd dose of COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are eligible, and to help vulnerable family members and friends to get their 3rd dose.  Currently, all people aged 50+, people who are Indigenous and their household members, health care workers, and people who received a viral vector primary vaccine series (AstraZeneca or Janssen) are eligible for a 3rd dose once 168 days have passed since their second dose.  It is expected that additional groups will be eligible for 3rd doses soon in Ontario.
    • Third doses will continue to be administered at Algoma COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics, Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, and participating pharmacies and primary care settings across the Algoma district.
  • APH and health partners have been working intensely to offer more vaccine clinics and appointment spots district-wide during the rest of December.  This includes restarting mass immunization clinics and large community clinics such as those previously held at GFL Memorial Gardens in Sault Ste. Marie, and at the Collins Hall in Elliot Lake.  As soon as we have enough staffing and vaccine supply confirmed for these new clinics, they will be made available for booking within the next few days.  We thank all Algoma residents for their patience, and we extend our gratitude to all partners and volunteers who are giving their skills and time to this community effort, especially during the holiday season.

 

Increased Community Transmission of COVID-19 in Algoma and Threat of Omicron

  • Omicron-related exposures have already impacted a number of Algoma community settings.  Although the Omicron variant has not yet been confirmed in Algoma, a number of current exposures are suspected and presumed to be due to this variant of concern, due to initial lab screening results, a history of travel, or links to known Omicron exposures in other areas of the province.
  • COVID-19 activity in Algoma is the highest that it has ever been since the beginning of the pandemic and Algoma’s rate of new COVID-19 cases is still among the highest in Ontario at this time. As of December 15th, there are 271 active cases in Algoma, with 6 hospitalizations.  In the 7-day period from December 8-14, rates of new COVID-19 cases in Algoma were at 148 cases per 100,000 population, with a most recent percent positivity of 3.3%. 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, Central & East Algoma and Elliot Lake and area. 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 (December 8-14), 33% of Algoma cases were in people 0-19, 27% were in people aged 20-39, 22% were in people aged 40-59, 16% 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 December 6, among Algoma residents hospitalized with COVID-19 infections, 72.9% had not received at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
    • Data on local cases and their vaccination status is preliminary and highly subject to change.

CLASS ORDER Made pursuant to Section 22 (5.0.1) of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.H.7, as amended

This class order amends and, effective December 17, 2021, at 12:01 a.m., replaces the class order effective November 29, 2021.

Date: December 15, 2021

Effective: December 17, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.

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INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH

These instructions amend and, effective December 17 at 12:01 a.m., replace the instructions effective November 29, 2021 (First issued November 15 and amended November 18 and 26)

TO: Persons responsible for a business or organization that is open in the District of Algoma Health Unit

Original date: November 15, 2021
Revised: November 18, 2021
Revised: November 26, 2021
Revised: December 15, 2021

Effective: December 17, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.

 

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