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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Daily Update: March 26th, 2021

Regional Council extends face-covering by-law

In recognition of the continued importance of following public health measures to control the spread of COVID-19, on March 25, Regional Council voted to extend Niagara’s temporary face-covering by-law, which was set to expire on April 1, 2021. The by-law requires masks in all enclosed public spaces in Niagara, and aligns with orders issued by the province under the Reopening Ontario Act. The by-law will automatically expire when those Provincial requirements are no longer in effect.
Council’s decision to extend the bylaw recognizes the continued importance of following public health measures – such as physical distancing, proper hand hygiene, and wearing a mask in public – in order to limit the spread of the virus while Niagara’s vaccination effort continues.
Residents are reminded that the by-law includes a number of exemptions for individuals who are unable to wear a mask due to disability under the Human Rights Code. Many disabilities are invisible, and there is no requirement to prove an exemption.
However, the Premier of Ontario and many legal experts have advised businesses that they may legally exclude patrons who do not wear a mask on the premises (on similar grounds to a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy), and may even be legally obliged to do so under a certain interpretation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), which requires employers to take all reasonable steps to keep their employees safe in the workplace. A legal challenge would likely require a court to decide whether the OHSA or the Ontarians with Disabilities Act would take precedence. Patrons unable or unwilling to wear a mask can be encouraged to use curbside pick-up or delivery options, if available.
More information about the by-law, and other public health regulations, is available on Niagara Region’s website.

Restrictions for Grey-Lockdown regions adjusted

The Ontario government will adjust public health measures primarily for certain activities held in regions currently in the Grey-Lockdown level of the COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open.

Outdoor Fitness Classes, Outdoor Team Training, and Outdoor Personal Training

  • No patrons are permitted to be in the indoor areas of the facility;
  • Requiring patrons to make a reservation (no walk-ins);
  • Limiting the number of patrons to 10 people maximum;
  • Every person must maintain a physical distance of at least three metres from another person and activities that are likely to result in individuals coming within three metres of each other are not permitted;
  • Requiring that the contact information of all patrons be collected and maintained for a period of a month, and be made available for disclosure if required;
  • All patrons must be actively screened in accordance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health;
  • Limiting the volume of music and requiring the implementation of measures to reduce/not encourage loud talking, singing or shouting;
  • Prohibiting the playing or practising of team sports except for training sessions for members of a sports team that do not include games or scrimmage games;
  • Ensuring that any equipment that is rented to, provided to or provided for the use of patrons must be cleaned and disinfected between each use and avoiding the use of any equipment or fixed structures that cannot be cleaned and disinfected between each use;
  • No spectators are permitted, except for any person under the age of 18 who is engaged in activities in the facility may be accompanied by one parent or guardian; and
  • Requiring every person to wear a face covering in a manner that covers their mouth, nose and chin.

Personal Care Services

  • Implementation of strict capacity limits (The lesser of 25 per cent capacity or five patrons), subject to physical distancing.
  • Requiring that no member of the public may be permitted to enter the premises except by appointment;
  • Appointments must only be made by individuals or with members of the same household;
  • Limiting entry to the premises to only patrons who are receiving a service, with exceptions for a caregiver or children of the patron;
  • Prohibiting patrons from lining up or congregating outside of the establishment unless patrons are able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres and are wearing a face covering;
  • Prohibiting services requiring the removal of a face covering that covers the mouth, nose and chin;
  • Requiring that the contact information of all patrons be collected and maintained for a period of a month, and be made available for disclosure if required;
  • All patrons must be actively screened in accordance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health; and
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment must be worn by people providing personal care services.

In addition:

  • Steam rooms, saunas, and oxygen bars must be closed;
  • Sensory deprivation pods closed (unless they are used for a therapeutic purpose prescribed by, or administered by, a regulated health professional); and
  • Any locker rooms, change rooms, and showers must be closed except to the extent they provide access to a washroom or a portion of the business that is used to provide first aid.

Wedding, Funeral and Religious Services, Rites and Ceremonies

The province is also modifying outdoor capacity limits for weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies held in regions in all levels of the Framework. Effective Monday, March 29, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., capacity limits for weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies, will be adjusted to allow for the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distance. This change does not apply to social gatherings associated with these services, such as receptions.

Government of Canada invests in new research to address COVID-19 variants

To further accelerate efforts to understand and respond to the virus variants, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, today announced an investment of $14.3 million from the Government of Canada, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), to support new research on the COVID-19 virus variants. This includes $5.3 million in supplementary funding for 90 ongoing COVID-19 projects and $9 million for a new national network that will coordinate and align variants research throughout the country.

The Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network, or CoVaRR-Net, will be led by Dr. Marc-André Langlois from the University of Ottawa. Dr. Langlois and his team will collaborate with the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Lab (NML), the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network (CanCOGeN), provincial and territorial public health labs, and other national and international bodies. CoVaRR-Net will enable the rapid assessment of both the immune response to the virus variants and whether these variants are resistant to existing vaccines. The findings will provide decision makers with guidance regarding drug therapy, vaccine effectiveness, and other public health strategies.

This initiative is part of the Government of Canada $53 million investment in an integrated Variants of Concern Strategy to rapidly scale up surveillance, sequencing and research efforts.The Strategy is a partnership between the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory, Health Canada, Genome Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Four in five Canadians now likely to take COVID-19 vaccine if offered

From September to December 2020, just over three-quarters of Canadians told us that they were somewhat or very willing to get the vaccine, with marked differences observed in willingness by age, province and population subgroup. These findings are presented in a new study released today called “COVID-19 vaccine willingness among Canadian population groups,” which is based on responses from the Canadian Community Health Survey.

Widespread acceptance of the vaccine is important to help control the spread of COVID-19. Vaccine hesitancy is a complex issue defined by the World Health Organization as a “delay in acceptance, or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccine services.” From November to mid-December, 80.4% of Canadians reported they were somewhat or very likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine. This represents an increase from September, when 75.5% of Canadians reported a willingness to receive the vaccine.

The GNCC has repeatedly endorsed mass vaccination as the only truly sustainable and scientifically-backed way out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant economic crisis.

Reading recommendations

Canada’s COVID case count set to hit 1 million next week as variants spread

John Paul Tasker, CBC News

After two months of relative stability, Canada’s COVID-19 case count is expected to rise rapidly in the coming weeks as virus variants take hold. Canada is projected to hit roughly 1 million total cases next week, according to data released today by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

While the vaccination campaign has ramped up after a period of scarcity, the rollout can’t keep pace with the spread of the virus, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. Tam today urged Canadians to reduce their contacts in the medium-term while provinces and territories deploy more shots in the months to come.

Asked today when things might return to a pre-pandemic “normal,” Tam said that day is not imminent. With the caseload curve trending up, variants accelerating and vaccine distribution still quite low, a post-COVID-19 Canada is still months away, she said.

COVID-19 variants like B117, which is thought to have originated in the U.K., now account for a high proportion of new cases and make up half of all new cases in some areas. There are roughly 3,000 new cases being reported each day nationwide, up from about 2,000 a month ago.

Kevin Roose, The New York Times

The robots are coming. Not to kill you with lasers, or beat you in chess, or even to ferry you around town in a driverless Uber.

These robots are here to merge purchase orders into columns J and K of next quarter’s revenue forecast, and transfer customer data from the invoicing software to the Oracle database. They are unassuming software programs with names like “Auxiliobits — DataTable To Json String,” and they are becoming the star employees at many American companies.

Some of these tools are simple apps, downloaded from online stores and installed by corporate I.T. departments, that do the dull-but-critical tasks that someone named Phil in Accounting used to do: reconciling bank statements, approving expense reports, reviewing tax forms. Others are expensive, custom-built software packages, armed with more sophisticated types of artificial intelligence, that are capable of doing the kinds of cognitive work that once required teams of highly-paid humans.

White-collar workers, armed with college degrees and specialized training, once felt relatively safe from automation. But recent advances in A.I. and machine learning have created algorithms capable of outperforming doctors, lawyers and bankers at certain parts of their jobs. And as bots learn to do higher-value tasks, they are climbing the corporate ladder.

Niagara COVID status tracker

Niagara’s most up-to-date COVID statistics, measured against the targets for the various stages of the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework, are presented below. This does not predict government policy, but is offered to give you an idea of where Niagara is situated and how likely a relaxation (or further restrictions) may be. These data are drawn daily from Niagara Region. The Grey-Lockdown level does not have its own metrics, but is triggered when the COVID-specific measurements in a Red-Control region have continued to deteriorate.

 Incidence ratePercent positivityRt
Target: Green<10<0.5%<1
Target: Yellow10-24.90.5-1.2%1
Target: Orange25-39.91.3-2.4%1-1.1
Target: Red≥40≥2.5%≥1.2
Niagara Current154.2 ▲7.4% ▲1.2 ▼


  • Weekly Incidence Rate: the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per week
  • Percent Positivity: the number of positive COVID-19 tests as a percentage of all COVID-19 tests performed
  • Rt: the reproductive rate, or the number of people infected by each case of the virus

Information on government grants, resources, and programs, policies, forms, and posters for download and use, are available here.The GNCC is here to support you. Contact us with any questions you have.
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