Countdown to Lockdown: The State of COVID in Guelph on December 23

When you woke up this morning, it was two days till Christmas and three days till the start of a province-wide lockdown, and on this morning there was some good news and some concerning news. While the Government of Canada has approved the second vaccine for widespread distribution, there’s still no news about when our region might start getting the vaccine, but Public Health says they’re prepared when it happens.

“We have been preparing since July to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer in a statement. “This vaccination program will be one of the largest projects ever carried out by WDG Public Health – and we are ready.”

According to Public Health, they have both vaccine refrigerators and ultra-low freezers for vaccine storage ready to store as many as 100,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer, which is the one that requires the special freezers to preserve them at ultra low temperatures. The other vaccine, which is from the pharmaceutical company Moderna, finally received authorization from Health Canada.

“Today’s authorization is a critical step in ensuring additional COVID-19 vaccines are available to all Canadians in all parts of the country,” Health Canada said in a statement Wednesday morning. “The different storage and handling requirements of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine mean that it can be distributed to isolated and remote communities, including the territories.”

According to the Government of Ontario, 53,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be made available for distribution across across the province before the end of the month. Because the Moderna vaccine can be more mobile than the Pfizer treatment, its distribution can be handled on site at long-term care homes and retirement homes, whose residents will be among the first recipients along with frontline healthcare workers and people in Indigenous communities.

“Moderna and Pfizer doses will continue to be delivered and administered in January and we expect increasing numbers of doses through to March and beyond,” Premier Doug Ford said in a statement Wednesday. “Phase Two is expected to begin this spring when Ontario receives more of the ordered doses of vaccine from both Pfizer and Moderna, and potentially other vaccines, as they go through clinical trials and approvals.”

As of 1 pm Wednesday, there’s still no word as to when Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph will start getting doses of either vaccine, but Public Health said that their immunization team nurses have been trained to deliver the Pfizer vaccine once they get some.

“Our entire agency and our partners stand ready to help provide the vaccine, protect the most vulnerable members of our community, ensure the safety of our healthcare colleagues and move to the end of this pandemic, “Mercer said. “The moment the vaccine arrives, we are ready.”

The sooner the better because the number of outbreaks in area healthcare facilities have continued to increase in the last few days with new declarations being made in the east wing on the fifth floor at Guelph General Hospital, and another outbreak at the Village of Arbour Trails. There are also ongoing outbreaks at the Elliott Community, St. Joseph Health Centre, the Village of Riverside Glen, and on the fourth floor of Guelph General.

The updated case count from Public Health on Wednesday noted 62 new cases, which brings the total number of active cases in our area up to 306 with 173 cases in Guelph, 40 in Wellington County, 53 in Dufferin County, and 40 that are unassigned. The number of local fatalities from COVID-19 has also increased by three in the last couple of days to bring that number up to 46 people who have died from the virus in our area.

Outdoor Activities and Market Square

After being closed on the weekend after several instances of over-crowding and little mask wearing, the City of Guelph is getting ready to re-open the rink at Market Square with new rules in place to let people skate safer.

“We know how much people enjoy the rink and we want to offer safe ways to get outside and have fun this winter,” said Public Services Deputy CAO Colleen Clack-Bush in a statement. “Last weekend, we tried opening the rink and hoped people would share the space like they do in parks, but it got too crowded. So, we’ll control the entrance and limit skate times to 45 minutes so everyone gets some time on the ice.”

When the rink re-opens on Sunday December 27, only 25 people will be allowed on the ice at any given time, for 45 minutes at a time. Everyone will have to wear a mask while they skate, or while waiting to skate outside the rink in the square. People will only be allowed to enter the rink at the east end of Market Square, and skaters will have to exit at the end closest to the front doors of City Hall.

If crowding is still a concern downtown, there are still options this winter to get outdoors thanks to the Grand River Conservation Authority. Belwood Lake, Guelph Lake, Laurel Creek, Pinehurst Lake, Rockwood and Shade’s Mills conservation areas will all remain open for what the GRCA is calling “limited winter activities” like hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing, but equipment rentals will not be available.

Ice fishing will also be available on Belwood Lake, Pinehurst Lake and Shade’s Mills, but fishermen and women will have to wait until ice thickness meets the safety requirements.

GRCA nature centres and indoor facilities will remain closed, and while all trails and natural areas will be open, no winter maintenance is being done at this time. There are also a limited number of portable washrooms and garbage receptacles currently available on site.

For more information, consult the GRCA website.

OHL Season Delayed!

Although directly outside the control of the government and public health authorities, the Board of Governors and General Managers of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) decided to postpone the start of their 2020-2021 season again to a date to be determined later.

In a media statement released Wednesday, the OHL formally announced that they will not ask players to report to their teams in January, and that league games will not commence on February 4 as previously scheduled. With much of Ontario about to enter a 28-day lockdown, the OHL concedes that starting the hockey season right now is not exactly doable.

“The safety of all of our stakeholders and communities is our priority and we are committed to starting the 2020-21 season when it is safe to do so,” the statement read. “We know that this is difficult news for many of our players, fans, billets, parents, staff and teams. However, the restrictions both provincially in Ontario as well as nationally with regards to cross-border travel have informed our decision.”

The City of Guelph announced on Monday that the Sleeman Centre, the home of the OHL Guelph Storm, is among the City owned facilities that will be closed during the lockdown. Indeed, the Sleeman Centre has remained closed to all events, games and festivities since the start of the pandemic in March.

Public Health Holiday Hours

The COVID-19 call centre will be closed December 25, 26, and 27, plus January 1 and 3, and then be open to receive calls between 9 am and 3:30 pm on January 2, and from 9 am to 4 pm on all the other days. The call centre will be back to its regular schedule on January 4.

If you need a COVID-19 test, the assessment centre will still be mostly open throughout the holidays. With the exception of Christmas and New Year’s Day when the centre will be closed, and Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Eve when it will only be open from 9 am to 4 pm, the regular hours of the assessment centre are still in effect. You do still need to make an appointment if you need a test, and you can do that by calling 1-226-773-1922.

For all other public health inquiries, click here to find numbers and hours of operation.

To see holiday hours for all other City services, click here.

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