Windsor-Essex will be under a stay-at-home order until Feb. 16, according to an announcement from the provincial government.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Health Christine Elliott announced plans Monday to extend the stay-at-home order for most the province.The state of emergency will still expire on Tues, Feb. 9.

It is proposed that the stay-at-home order will continue to apply to 28 public health regions, including Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent, until Tuesday, Feb. 16. For Toronto, Peel and York regions, it is proposed that the stay-at-home order will continue to apply until Monday, Feb. 22. The order will end for three northern regions on Feb. 10.

"While we have seen some progress in our fight against COVID-19, the situation in our hospitals remains precarious and the new variants pose a considerable threat to all of us," said Elliott.

To support the province's economic recovery, the Ford said they have updated the COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open to allow for a safer approach to retail.

Non-essential businesses will be allowed to reopen next week, even if the region is still in lockdown.

Limited in-person shopping in Grey-Lockdown zones will be permitted with public health and safety measures, such as limiting capacity to 25 per cent in most retail settings.

The province says public health and safety measures in retail settings will be strengthened for other levels of the framework. Individuals will also be required to wear a face covering and maintain physical distance when indoors in a business, with limited exceptions.

"Our number one priority will always be protecting the health and safety of all individuals, families and workers across the province," said Ford. "But we must also consider the severe impact COVID-19 is having on our businesses. That's why we have been listening to business owners, and we are strengthening and adjusting the Framework to allow more businesses to safely reopen and get people back to work."

The Ontario government announced Nov. 3 that all Ontario public health unit regions would be categorized into five levels: Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Grey-Lockdown. The province revised what's allowed within the colour-categories on Monday.

Windsor-Essex advanced rapidly through the shutdown stages in the fall as the COVID-19 cases started to rise. The region started at green on Nov. 3, moved to yellow on Nov. 16, advanced to orange on Nov. 23 and then to red on Nov. 30, before lockdown on Dec. 14.

Schools in the area also closed to in-class learning on Dec. 14, but welcomed back students on Monday morning.

The province begins its gradual reopening with three northern health unit regions on Wednesday, with Windsor and 27 others to follow on Feb. 16. The province is expected to release further details of which tier each area will be in after the stay-at-home order.

Elliot said due to the risk posed by new variants, Ontario is also introducing an "emergency brake" to allow for immediate action if a region experiences rapid acceleration in COVID-19 transmission or if its health care system risks becoming overwhelmed. If this occurs, the chief medical officer of health, in consultation with the local medical officer of health, may advise immediately moving a region into Grey-Lockdown to interrupt transmission.

"While we have seen some progress in our fight against COVID-19, the situation in our hospitals remains precarious and the new variants pose a considerable threat to all of us," said Elliott.

What's next for Windsor-Essex?

Medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex Dr. Wajid Ahmed said the region would likely move into the ‘Red-Control’ zone once stay-at-home order is lifted.

Despite what the provinces decides, Ahmed said his messaging is the same.

“My focus is on the health and how we can keep the focus on health,” he said.

Ahmed added it’s really important to keep following public health measures.

“Opening up and easing the restrictions doesn’t mean that the virus is gone and I want to repeat that message again and again,” said Ahmed.

The province’s framework to move from lockdown back to red will look at several factors, including case count, test positivity rate, increasing outbreaks among vulnerable populations and the risk of the hospital or ICU capacity being overwhelmed.

Under red zone rules, indoor dining can resume with capacity limits, and gyms and hair salons can reopen with restrictions.

Cast counts and test positivity rates in Windsor-Essex have improved steadily since reaching a peak in January.

Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens said he is also urging every resident to continue to adhere to all public health recommendations.

“While our recent COVID-19 case counts have decreased dramatically, I appreciate the weight given to the other factors that public health officials consider when providing recommendations to Cabinet, including case incidence per 100,000 population, percentage positivity of testing, and total ICU occupancy within the health care system,” said Dilkens in a statement.

“As mayor, I want to urge every resident to continue to adhere to all public health recommendations and continue to drive down our pandemic-related indicators, so that the next time the Provincial Government seeks to reassess our region, we will be considered for further careful reopening.”