Niagara lifting COVID-19 state of emergency, although ‘the pandemic is not completely over’

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Published March 14, 2022 at 7:03 pm

The state of emergency that Niagara Region declared early in the COVID-19 pandemic will end — after 710 days — at 12:01 a.m. tonight.

A joint statement from 12 mayors and Regional Chair Jim Bradley stated the municipal states of emergency are no longer necessary, even though “the pandemic is not completely over.” The message also praised frontline healthcare workers and essential workers, while lauding residents for “the sacrifices that you made saved lives and kept people out of the hospital.” At the same time, however, it noted “the pandemic is not completely over.”

As such, the state of emergency will officially end at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday (March 15).

The states of emergency were declared April 3, 2020 to protect hospital capacity and save the lives of residents of the region, including those in St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Welland, Fort Erie and West Lincoln.

The message did include a note of caution about continuing to take steps to increase personal and community protection from COVID-19. Niagara Region did have 51 new cases reported on Monday. The general rule of thumb expressed by Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore, is that actual case counts are likely around 10 times higher. The official count is low due to limited polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, which is more accurate than a self-given rapid antigen test (RAT).

“It is important to remember that the pandemic is not completely over,” the elected leaders’ statement reads. “Residents are encouraged to consider taking steps to protect themselves and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Some of these steps include getting a third vaccine dose, practising physical distancing when possible, and participating in outdoor activities, as opposed to indoor, when that is an option.”

‘Learning how to transition to living with and managing COVID-19’

The release noted municipal facilities will keep COVID-19 protections in place over the coming weeks as guidelines are adjusted. Overall, the elected leaders believe now is the time to take a next step out of the depths of the pandemic, now that third-dose coverage is up to 51 per cent of the vaccine-eligible population (age 5 and up).

“As the heads of council, we declared the State of Emergency together in an effort to help save lives, protect our hospital system and to underscore the critical nature of the situation,” the statement reads. “After two years, we are in a significantly different position and appears that it is now the appropriate time to move forward as a community.

“As we continue to observe a decrease in cases, hospitalization and loss of life, standing down from our emergency declaration is another way we are learning how to transition to living with and managing COVID-19.

“We want to offer a sincere thank you to all Niagara residents who did their part over the last two years to wear masks, follow directions to stay home, limit personal contact and get vaccinated.

“We also thank all of our front line health care workers who selflessly made the commitment to serve our community, getting us through exceptionally difficult times. We also owe a debt of gratitude to our essential workers who continued to report to work throughout the pandemic, risking their health to ensure our economy could continue to operate.

“We acknowledge that the last two years have been exceptionally challenging for everyone, but the people of Niagara proved time and time again that they are willing to do what is necessary to take care of each other and keep one another safe.”

“Make no mistake: the sacrifices that you made saved lives and kept people out of the hospital.”

The region’s COVID-19 dashboard says that 51 per cent of residents age 5 and over have at least three doses of COVID. That works out to 48.6 per cent of the total population. There is no approved dose for children who are under five years old.

Only 9 per cent of tweens and teenagers, the age 12 to 17 cohort, have had a third dose since their eligibility was expanded about a month ago. They, of course, will be returning to school on March 21 following March Break.

The full statement may be read at niagararegion.ca.

(Graphics via niagararegion.ca.)

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