Niagara’s medical officer warns against unsafe social interactions as cases rise in the region

Dr Mustafa Hirji Dr. Mustafa Hirji's order has the Niagara Region's restaurant industry up in arms. He faces questions at an emergency regional council meeting today.

Niagara Region’s acting medical officer is urging residents to practice safe social interactions in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers that have been hitting daily new records.

Dr. Mustafa Hirji’s advisory comes as “cases of COVID-19 have continued to rise in Niagara, including a daily record of 63 cases in one day earlier this week. Provincially, record numbers of daily cases are being recorded,” he wrote in a message distributed publicly.

Additionally, in Niagara, since the start of October, there have been 13 new deaths from COVID-19, he said.

In the spring, COVID-19 spread was limited using a lockdown that forced people to stay home. However, that took a toll and had a significant economic and social cost, he explained.

Strategies used in the spring, such as staying home to limit social interactions slowed the spread of infections. “That same dynamic is needed now to slow the spread of infections.” he said.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, recently advised all Canadians to reduce in-person social contacts to help control the spread of COVID-19. Hirji is similarly asking Niagara residents to “limit in-person social interactions to people within your household” and to “stay home if you have any symptoms of illness, however mild.” 

Hirji also announced that that local restaurants and bars establishments will be taking additional action to help reduce community spread by asking patrons about symptoms of illness before dining and confirming that they are dining with members of their household.

Some food and drink establishments, like Casa Toscana in Grimsby and Fielding Estates Winery in Beamsville, are taking additional actions to improve safety in their establishment by installing heated, outdoor pods allowing patrons to continue to enjoying patio season as the cold weather approaches and dine outdoors with house members only in enclosed pods. More information on this can be found here.

This message comes as Niagara Region is also investigating an outbreak from a Halloween party in a Niagara Falls hotel. More information on this can be found here.

In addition to these precautions, residents are urged to practice social distancing, sanitize and wash hands frequently, and wear face coverings when visiting public indoor spaces such as stores.

“I believe that if we successfully reduce our social interactions to just our households, we are well-positioned in Niagara to be able to reduce our COVID-19 case counts, keeping our community safe and healthy, and allowing some more openness for the holiday season,” said Hirji.

More info:

Original advisory from Dr Hirji
Extend patio season with these local pod-equipped restaurants
Niagara Region seeking hotel Halloween partygoers for contact tracing