Porcupine Health Unit extends lockdown for another two weeks

With the high COVID-19 caseload in the Timmins area -- more than 50 new cases were announced Thursday -- the medical officer of health for the Porcupine Health Unit is extending the current pandemic lockdown until June 25.

"I don’t expect we’re able to make any movement on this before then and I’m quite hopeful that we’ll get there by then," said Dr. Lianne Catton, the medical officer of health for the Porcupine Health Unit.

"While the overall COVID-19 situation in the province of Ontario is improving, the situation in the Porcupine Health Unit area remains dire," Catton said in a news release Friday morning. "Our region is not in a position to safely remove all restrictions as per Step 1 of the Road Map to Reopen with the rest of the province."

Sue Perras, the board of health chair and also the Mayor of Smooth Rock Falls agrees.

"Dr. Catton has the full support of the Board of Health in taking this very critical step to protect our communities. We must continue to work together across the region to support the measures and each other during this difficult time. Each of our communities is at risk for the rapid increase in cases we continue to see across the region," Perras said.

Catton said this is not the decision she wanted to make, but she has the support from provincial health authorities to continue with the lockdown.

"We’re going to be working with some provincial partners to work through what some of that modelling may look like ... and we’ll be sharing that as soon as we can,” she said.

The COVID-19 Delta variant is another reason for keeping public safety measures in place. Catton said it's present in the area and it's 50 per cent more transmissible than other variants.

While she is pleased that around 70 per cent of the population has had at least one dose of a vaccine, and 13 per cent of people have had their second doses, she said more vaccines in arms are needed.

Anyone 16 years and older who received a first dose of Moderna or Pfizer at least 28 days ago can now make an appointment at a Pfizer clinic to receive Pfizer for a second dose.

“We know the Delta variant needs two doses for proper effectiveness," said Catton.

"The vaccines are effective against the Delta variant, but with one dose we’re only looking in the 30-50 per cent range of effectiveness against preventing the Delta variant. With two doses, we’re looking at 88-90 per cent. It’s a much bigger gap between first and second dose than what we see with any other variant.”

Catton said people who want a second dose of Moderna will have to be patient until the province sends more of that brand in mid June. 

The following restrictions will remain in place in the Cochrane District and town of Hornepayne until at least June 25:

  • Restricting indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with the people you live with. Limited outdoor gatherings to 5 people and maintain physical distancing.
  • Restrictions against in-person shopping in most retail settings. Curbside pickup and delivery can continue.
  • Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, and pharmacies will continue to operate at 25 per cent capacity for in-store shopping.
  • Restrictions against indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments can continue to operate take out, drive-through and delivery only.