Southwestern Public Health is urging Oxford and Elgin residents to continue complying with all public health measures regarding COVID-19.
And to continue with being patient.
Twenty-eight new COVID-19 cases were reported in the region on March 22. In total, there were 75 active cases, including four in Tillsonburg. Woodstock had the highest number in the region with 38 cases.
Four people were in hospital as of Monday, two of them in intensive care.
The COVID-19 Assessment Centre in Tillsonburg, one of five in Oxford-Elgin, tested 327 people last week.
“Cases are steadily rising again in our region,” said medical officer of health Dr. Joyce Lock on March 17. “We are almost double the number of active cases we had a week ago. There are outbreaks in workplaces, and in schools within the region. We are also seeing outbreaks associated with social gatherings.
“This is the hard part of operating within the province’s Safe and Open Framework,” she said, noting the Oxford-Elgin region remains in the ‘orange’ colour zone.
“Our actions now determine whether we get moved within a more restrictive zone or get locked down again as has happened in some regions.”
The Southwestern Public Health region has been in the orange zone since March 1. Haldimand-Norfolk is also orange, having moved back from yellow on March 8. Brant County health unit moved back to the red ‘control’ zone March 22.
“Despite how tired everyone, including me, is feeling, we still need your cooperation to keep cases down.”
Lock added: “At the moment, approximately 40 per cent of all the COVID-19 in the Province of Ontario are screening positive as a ‘Variant of Concern.’ This means that the viruses are changed or mutated from the original novel coronavirus, identified more than a year ago.”
Southwestern Public Health had reported 18 COVID-19 cases screened positive as a variant, which are now identified on the health unit’s online dashboard.
A variant becomes a concern when it changes, said Lock, and it has more significant effects. One change is in its ‘spread’ – it spreads more easily. Sometimes the COVID-19 symptoms can be more severe.
“Some of the variants also affect how well the vaccine will work. And they also affect how we test and diagnose people.”
If a swab/test is positive a variant, it is sent to a lab to find out what variant it is. That process can take about two weeks.
Containing the spread of variants is a significant focus for the health unit at this time.
“We all need to work harder to keep these more easily transmissible viruses from spreading.”
Originally, first and second vaccine doses had an interval of three-four weeks between shots. That interval has been extended to 16 weeks between doses (for the three two-dose vaccines currently approved by Health Canada).
In the Southwestern Public Health unit, the time between doses was changed from 21 days to 112 days.
“This will allow more people to benefit from getting the first of a vaccine sooner. And it will also help to increase the level of protection from COVID-19 in our population generally. The first dose of the vaccine provides very good protection from COVID-19 all on its on, and then the second dose gives you a booster to make sure that your protection lasts for a good while.
“The vaccine stimulates your immune system,” she said. “Your immune system remembers the vaccine and remembers that it needs to fight the COVID virus. When you get the booster dose some months later your immune system memory gets much stronger. So sometimes spacing out the interval is good for you because it makes your memory last longer in your immune system.”