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Rising case counts see Public Health Sudbury reinstate work-from-home rule as of Monday

Local COVID-19 case rates remain ‘unacceptably high,’ says health unit
2021 11 23 PHSD Public Health Sudbury and Districts Building (Sudbury.com File Photo)

Saying local COVID-19 case rates remain “unacceptably high,” Public Health Sudbury & Districts is reinstating work-from-home requirements as of Monday.

Continued high COVID-19 case rates mean that the Public Health Sudbury & Districts area is among the top three most affected jurisdictions in Ontario, said a press release issued Friday.

Local protective measures, including a reinstatement of capacity limits first issued on Nov. 8, have suppressed rapid growth in cases; however, case rates remain unacceptably high, threatening health and the health system, in-person learning, and local transition to a “reopened” community, said the health unit.

PHSD said it is announcing “a measured and responsible approach to the current situation.” The medical officer of health is reinstating work-from-home requirements, revoked by the province on July 15, issuing strong recommendations for COVID-19 protections to area schools, businesses, and organizations, and enacting stricter measures for the follow up of contacts of cases of COVID-19.

“We have carefully reviewed recent data and consulted with the province’s chief medical officer of health,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts. 

“Although school-based cases and household spread are currently driving our continued high case counts, cases continue to be reported among young adults, social settings, and workplaces. It is hard to find a setting that is not impacted.

“With the widespread circulation of the virus in our community, our response also needs to be widespread, reducing mobility and face-to-face interactions overall. This is the purpose of the work-from-home Instructions. Further, every sector needs to do their part, voluntarily at this time, to pave the path to lower case rates and re-opening.”

You can read the full Letter of Instruction here.

Effective 12:01 a.m. Monday, Nov. 29, the updated Letter of Instructions will require businesses and organizations open in the City of Greater Sudbury to ensure that workers are conducting their work remotely, unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site at the workplace. Certain exceptions apply, the health unit stated, which you can find in the letter.

Public Health is also partnering with area school boards to reduce COVID-19 spread in schools and further protect in-person learning. 

Among the measures strongly recommended by the Medical Officer of Health to boards of education is the voluntary Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) screening of students. This is being rolled out now and in advance of the holiday season, offering another layer of protection. 

Other strongly recommended actions also include requiring RAT screening or proof of vaccination for students participating in certain extra-curricular sports, strengthened health and safety measures, and mandatory daily confirmation of symptom screening.

“COVID-19 is not to be underestimated,” Sutcliffe added.

“We have high vaccine coverage rates and are now offering vaccines to elementary school-aged children. It is truly remarkable how far we have come. However, the highly transmissible COVID Delta variant requires that we layer on as many protections as possible. To improve those protections, Public Health will be tightening up our protocols for contact follow up such that, in certain circumstances some people even if they are fully immunized, will be required to self-isolate. 

“We will also be requiring unvaccinated children to stay at home if they have an unvaccinated family member who was exposed to a case. We have to behave with the knowledge that every action matters—this means that every layer of protection we can put on ourselves and our family members reduces our chances of getting infected, and possibly developing serious acute or long-term symptoms. 

“Tragically, we have witnessed 38 deaths due to COVID-19 overall in our area, and of these, seven people have died in the last five weeks. Notably, and a change from what we were seeing earlier in the pandemic, is that five of those individuals who lost their lives since late-October were in their 50s and 60s, further highlighting everyone’s vulnerability when COVID-19 is given the opportunity to spread.”

Public Health is reissuing its call to everyone to continue to limit your outings, work from home, get vaccinated, wear your mask and keep two metres distance from those outside your household. 

Monitor yourself for symptoms and stay home when ill — even mildly symptomatic people should self-isolate immediately and seek testing to prevent spreading COVID-19 in our community. With the holiday season fast approaching, these directions should guide your decisions on any pre-holiday celebrations.

Learn more at phsd.ca/COVID-19.