It’s Official: On Tuesday, We’re Re-Opening Red!!

We’re red! Or we will be. Since it was announced on Monday that most of Ontario’s health regions would be returning to the colour-coded restriction system next week, we’ve all be wondering where Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph will sit on the scale. In a Friday announcement from Queen’s Park, it was revealed that like those final days before the province-wide lockdown, we’re going back to red.

On February 16 at 12:01 am, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health will emerge from lockdown at the Red-Control level along with Chatham-Kent, Hamilton, Durham, Halton, Middlesex-London, Simcoe-Muskoka, Southwestern, Thunder Bay, Waterloo and Windor-Essex. Niagara Region will mostly stay the same “re-opening” in Grey-Lockdown, while the other 15 public health units announced today will re-open in orange, yellow, or green.

Toronto, Peel, York Region, and North Bay Parry Sound will remain in the state of emergency until February 22.

“While we are cautiously and gradually transitioning some regions out of shutdown, with the risk of new variants this is not a reopening or a return to normal,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott in a statement. “Until vaccines are widely available, it remains critical that all individuals and families continue to adhere to public health measures and stay home as much as possible to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities.”

The last time the Province revised our region’s status before the Boxing Day lockdown was December 11 when we first moved into Red-Control level. Re-opening at red will surely be disappointing for people who thought we would rank orange or higher, but the numbers don’t back that up.

On Friday, public health posted the latest 7-day moving rate of confirmed cases at 43.4 per 100,000, which is 3.4 points higher than the red line of 40 cases out of every 100,000 people. That was the rate on Wednesday while the 7-day test positivity rate is  1.8 per cent, which is the latest number for that column as of last Saturday. The total number of active cases is still hovering around 170 even though Wellington, Dufferin, and Guelph only added 28 new cases on Friday. There was also one new fatality to bring the total number of COVID deaths in our area up to 91.

Under Red-Control, most retail businesses will be allowed to re-open up to 50 per cent capacity so long as there’s mandatory masking and allowance for two-metre physical distancing. Indoor social gatherings will be allowed up to five people and outdoor gatherings will be allowed up to 25, while indoor dining will also be permitted up to 10 people with a limit of four per table. Buffets, dancing, live music venues, cinemas, saunas, and similar businesses will have to remained closed.

Public health regions will stay in their present colour level for at least two weeks before being re-considered. There will also be an “emergency break” to allow the provincial Medical Officer of Health and their local counterpart to move a region to immediate lockdown in the event of a dangerous increase in cases, especially with one of the three main COVID-19 variants. So far, there has been only one confirmed case of the U.K. COVID variant in Guelph.

The View from City Hall

The news that Guelph was re-opening red was welcomed as good news from the City’s executive branch.

“We are cautiously optimistic. We know everyone will be excited to return to our recreation centres, and we appreciate everyone’s patience as we get our new screening and booking processes up and running.” said Public Services DCAO Colleen Clack-Bush in a statement. “Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has detected a new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 in the area, so it’s more important than ever to keep our distance wear our masks, keep our hands clean as we reopen facilities and resume programs and services.”

Closed since the first move to Red-Control in December, the City of Guelph recreation facilities will re-open on February 18 for drop-in programs as well as pools and ice-rink rentals, but you have to register 72-hours in advance. Only a maximum of 10 people at a time will be able to participate in classes or conduct training in the weight and exercise room, and everyone using the room will have to stay three metres apart at all times. No team sport practice or play will be allowed.

Registration for recreation classes will open on March 3, and the programs themselves are currently scheduled to recommence on April 4.

For City Hall, the Provincial Offences Court and Guelph Transit, it’s business as [un]usual. The Guelph Farmers’ Market will allow up to 75 people to shop indoors starting next Saturday, and Guelph Museums will be open for up to 10 people at a time starting on February 16.

The River Run Centre and the Sleeman Centre are remaining closed.

The Guelph Public Library will be re-opening on Wednesday February 17 using many of the same precautions that were in effect prior to the lockdown with 30-minute restrictions on all computer stations, and limited hours. All library branches will be open with the exception of the Scottsdale branch where they will carry on with curbisde pick-up for the foreseeable future.

“We have to make good decisions if we want to keep our rinks, pools, and local businesses open. Let’s not mess this up,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie in a statement. “We’ve sacrificed a lot to come this far, it’s up to us to prevent another shutdown or a third wave.”

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