Northwestern Ontario and parts of the province could be moved into a more regional approach to COVID-19 restrictions, if the region’s cases see a significant decline through Ontario’s stay-at-home orders.

“We will when we can,” explained Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford during a scrum with regional media representatives last week.

“I’m confident that if we spend the next couple of weeks staying compliant as we have out here, a lot of our COVID-19 has come in from other regions like Thunder Bay, we may find ourselves in a position in a few weeks where some of the restrictions could potentially become regional.”

Although, Minister does note there’s little evidence to support a regional approach to COVID-19 restrictions, and despite a low number of cases in the area compared to other parts of Ontario, we are still at great risk.

“We have four ventilator capacity beds out here in the Kenora region. If we get to 50 [COVID-19 cases], that means 1 to 1.5 people, statistically, are likely to become clinically ill with COVID and wind up on a ventilator. We are still at risk. We’re not out of this yet.”

As of April 21, the Northwestern Health Unit is reporting a total of 54 active cases across their catchment area. That includes 20 in the Sioux Lookout area, 17 in the Kenora region, 13 in Emo, 3 in Fort Frances and 1 in the Dryden area.

“I have a young family with kids in school. I want them back in school. I want our lives to return to normal. When we get the signal out here in northwestern Ontario that like other regions we’re moving in the right direction, I’m hopeful and confident that we’ll start to look at a regional approach.

Rickford, who also serves as the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Indigenous Affairs and Energy, says a further shutdown could target essential construction activities and manufacturing facilities, if Ontario’s cases overall continue to climb through the stay-at-home orders.

“We’re at a juncture right now where there’s not much more left to do, until or unless our numbers become so clinically significant that we have to take a look at any and all essential activities. And we’re hopeful that won’t happen.”

Everyone is asked to continue to only leave their homes for essential reasons, such as work that cannot be done remotely, groceries, pharmacy visits, exercise, healthcare or childcare. Businesses are asked to keep employees working from home whenever possible.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or who has been in contact with a positive case of the virus should immediately self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known.