'We’ll welcome any opportunity to open up': Windsor-Essex MOH says region is ready

Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed in Windsor, Ont., on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (Bob Bellacicco / CTV Windsor)

The medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex says the region is ready to begin gradual reopening when the province gives the green light.

Dr. Wajid Ahmed said Thursday the number of new COVID-19 cases has been dropping, putting the region in a better position to start reopening businesses.

“Looking at our case rates locally we can, but I just want to be cautious moving forward,” said Ahmed.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reported a net total of just two new cases on Thursday, and 12 additional cases as part of a data cleanup.

“We’ll welcome any opportunity to open up, but we just want to make sure that it is done in a safe way, without putting the community at risk,” said Ahmed.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province might enter Step 1 of the roadmap to reopening "several days earlier" than expected.

Elliott told reporters at Queen’s Park Thursday that Ontario is "doing very well" in slowing the spread of COVID-19, which could allow the province to move up the reopening date to earlier than June 14.

Ahmed said a gradual approach is still necessary.

“Overall it looks good, but I just don’t want us to be moving forward too too quickly,” says Ahmed.

Step 1 would allow for Ontario to relax restrictions mainly involving outdoor activities.

Outdoor gathering limits will increase to 10 people, patios can reopen, and non-essential retail reopens at 15 per cent capacity.

Ahmed said Variants of Concern still pose a risk. WECHU says there are 165 active cases in the region, including 91 that have been identified as variants.

“We know that there are other variants that are coming to play as well,” said Ahmed.

Ahmed credits the vigilance of residents following public health measures and vaccine coverage for the decrease in new cases.

“We are doing a good job in terms of vaccine coverage rate and vaccination,” he said.

Over 70 per cent of Windsor-Essex residents 18+ have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

With files from CTVNewsToronto.ca.