The Ontario government has announced that Waterloo Region will be moving from the yellow to the orange zone under the province’s new COVID-19 framework.
That will mean further restrictions for bars, restaurants, fitness settings and gyms, with additional measures in place for other businesses.
READ MORE: Here’s what will change when Waterloo Region enters the orange ‘restrict’ category
During a Friday morning media briefing, local public health officials had announced that they expected Waterloo Region to move into the orange zone as early as Monday.
Health Minister Christine Elliott announced that afternoon that Waterloo Region would, in fact, be making the move then. Several other public health units were also shuffled as a result of new changes to thresholds in the province’s COVID-19 framework.
Despite the move to orange, the province’s latest framework would actually place the region in the red zone. That category is now triggered with a weekly incidence rate of 40 cases per 100,000 people, a positivity rate of 2.5 per cent or higher, and a reproductive rate of 1.2 or higher.
Based on numbers reported by public health officials reported during Friday’s media briefing, the region has exceeded each of those markers.
Dr. Julie Emili said that Friday that the region’s weekly incidence rate is currently 46 per 100,000, its positivity rate is 3.6 per cent and its reproductive rate is 1.9.
In an emailed statement to CTV News on Friday evening, regional officials said there are some indicators in the red tier.
The statement said the Medical Officer of Health will continue to work with the province over the coming days regarding the new framework.
“In the meantime, given our current situation, we recommend that businesses prepare for the possibility that we may be moved in the new Red-Control Category next week,” the statement said in part.
The change in tier speaks to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Waterloo Region, which has reported 40 or more new cases in each of the last five days. When the province first unveiled its new tiered lockdown system, the region was originally in the lowest tier, the green “prevent” category.
The move to the orange category is the second escalation since Nov. 3.
Minto Schneider, CEO of Explore Waterloo Region, said it’s disappointing but necessary to move into the orange tier.
“I think it’s going to be make it even tougher for restaurants to survive, since they’ve been struggling since March when they were initially closed,” she said. “Closing earlier will mean it reduces the number of people they can have, they can’t have a second or third seating to make it more difficult for them to make a living.”
During Friday’s media briefing, Dr. Emili said that there have been nearly 300 new cases in Waterloo Region in the last week.
“We see that the spread of COVID-19 often starts at social gatherings or events,” she said. “This is leading to multiple clusters of cases and outbreaks in various settings in our community.”