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COVID rules remain important, even as restrictions ease: DeMille

Dr. Janet DeMille encourages residents to continue following rules like masking, as province lifts event capacity restrictions.
Dr. Janet DeMille
Dr. Janet DeMille, medical officer of health for the Thunder Bay District Health Unit. (File photo)

THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay’s medical officer of health says it’s important for residents to continue following public health guidelines like masking, as the province eases restrictions to allow larger gatherings and events.

The provincial government removed capacity limits for events like concerts and sports games on Oct. 8. It's expected to announce a plan for further reopening this week.

That does carry some risks, particularly for indoor events, said DeMille, making remaining precautions like masking indoors, and when not able to distance outdoors, important.

“Certainly the expectation is that people wear masks indoors,” she said. “Of course, people are fully vaccinated to attend those events, but part of it is to continue wearing masks. If there was somebody with COVID there, the masks would help provide protection.”

DeMille said there was no indication of any spread of COVID-19 at local events held since rules were relaxed, thanks to very low levels of the virus in the community at large, with only two active cases in the district as of Thursday.

“We are not seeing spread at those events at this time, but our COVID rates are really, really low,” she said. “I think it’s going to be watched very carefully at the provincial level in terms of whether there is spread at these events, and how significant it is.”

“I think people need to be mindful that we’re still in a pandemic, we still have COVID here, and it can be very tricky… it can show up out of the blue and it can spread. So if we relax restrictions too quickly, we might start to see spread happening here. So I’d encourage people to continue following those rules.”

No major concerns about compliance with rules at local events have been brought to her attention, DeMille said.

The health unit works with event venues and other organizations to support them to comply with the changing regulations under the Reopening Ontario Act, DeMille said, and they will pursue complaints about non-compliance from the public.

“We continue to take complaints, so if somebody is concerned that they see something happening that is not consistent with the guidance, they can give us a call,” she said. “We’ll follow up and work with that organization to problem-solve.”

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