York Region asks province for return to red zone

York Region is asking the provincial government to allow it to move into the red zone – one notch below the most restrictive grey zone – when it returns to the tiered opening framework on February 22.

That request is subject to continuing current downward trends of indicators and close monitoring of the COVID-19 variants of concern, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said in a motion that was approved at a York Region Council meeting on February 11.

That’s the same day the province released new modelling that shows a declining number of cases and hospitalizations, as well as fewer daily deaths in long-term-care homes. But the modelling warns more contagious variants present a new and growing threat that will likely increase the number of cases by late February and hospitalizations by as early as the second week of March unless spread is limited through public health measures.

“Similar to other regions across Ontario, York Region has identified positive cases of COVID-19 variants in the community. While these variant strains are more transmissible and are of concern, we remain confident through good case management and contact tracing we can contain variant strains and limit the spread in our communities,” CEO Wayne Emmerson and Medial Officer of Health Dr. Karim Kurji say in a joint statement supporting Scarpitti’s motion.

In the letter, they acknowledged York has experienced downward trends in positive cases of COVID-19 across all of its municipalities and called on community members to continue to adhere to public health guidelines like staying home as much as possible and wearing a mask when leaving home.

The province is gradually moving different regions back into the tiered, colour-coded framework. Its plan has an ‘emergency brake’ that allows health officials to very quickly move a region into a more restrictive stage of reopening if cases begin to climb. Three regions with the fewest cases moved into the green zone this week and most other regions will return to the framework on February 16, with local case counts and factors like health system capacity determining which colour they will be in. The hot spots of Toronto, Peel Region and York Region will return to the reopening framework last on February 22.

The red control zone allows indoor gatherings of up to five people and outdoor gatherings with up to 25 people, as well as indoor religious ceremonies, weddings and funeral services at 30 per cent capacity. Restaurants, bars, gyms and recreational facilities can reopen with capacity limits. Retail and most personal care services could also reopen.

Photo: That request to move to the red zone is subject to continuing current downward trends of indicators and close monitoring of the COVID-19 variants of concern, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said in a motion that was approved at a York Region Council meeting on February 11. 

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