COVID-19: Variant cases pick up as emergency order kicks in

Public health officials in Huron and Perth counties reported an uptick in COVID-19 cases as a province-wide stay-at-home order came into effect Thursday.

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Public health officials in Huron and Perth counties reported an uptick in COVID-19 cases as a provincewide stay-at-home order came into effect Thursday.

Eight new cases were added to the region’s numbers – one in Huron County, three in St. Marys, and four in Stratford. The average number of new daily cases in Huron and Perth counties over the past seven days is closer to five.

There were 27 active COVID-19 cases in the region Thursday. A dozen of those have triggered a screen for variants of concern, up from six on Tuesday. 

“You can see our case counts are picking up,” said Miriam Klassen, the region’s medical officer of health. “It’s very important to continue to follow public-health and workplace safety measures to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19.”

One new COVID-19 outbreak at a local workplace was also reported Thursday.

One person from Huron and Perth counties was in hospital Thursday due to COVID-19.

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Klassen addressed the province’s decision to add the emergency stay-at-home order to a third pandemic shutdown that took effect earlier this week. The order shuttered non-essential stores, and urges people to stay home except to shop at grocery stores, pharmacies or to attend medical appointments.

Although caseloads in Huron-Perth remain relatively low, hovering around what would be the yellow level of the province’s reopening framework, she pointed out that numbers in surrounding regions are much higher.

According to data compiled by Ontario Health, Huron-Perth’s incidence rate – weekly new cases per 100,000 people – was around 24 as of Wednesday. 

To the north, in Grey and Bruce counties, that number is 42. 

To the east, Waterloo public health’s region is reporting 78 and the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph health unit is reporting 130. 

To the south, the Middlesex-London health unit’s incidence rate has reached 164. Caseloads there have spiked so high recently some observers are asking why the region isn’t considered a provincial hotspot. 

“Unfortunately in the rest of the region, rates have escalated into the orange and red ranges and, without these (shutdown and stay-at-home) measures, it’s inevitable we would also see escalating rates,” Klassen said. “It’s very important to break chains of transmission as one strategy in pandemic control and not just in our neighbours, but farther afoot in the province as well.”

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Vaccine uptake ‘really good’; some educators bumped up the queue

More than 25,000 doses of vaccine have been doled out in Huron-Perth and over 91 per cent of the region’s residents 80 years of age and older have received at least one shot, Klassen said Thursday.

“That’s really good uptake,” she said. “We’re very pleased with that. However, it’s important that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, continue to follow recommended public-health measures. Vaccines are an additional layer of protection, (but) they’re not 100 per cent effective in all circumstances and public-health measures do remain the foundation of the pandemic response while vaccinations are rolled out.”

The province announced Thursday new COVID-19 safety measures for schools, including offering vaccines to some education workers over the April break. The vaccination effort will begin with workers who provide direct support to students with special education needs, as well as others in provincial hotspots. 

“This will be followed by a rollout across the province as supply allows,” the government said in a press release.

Locally, Klassen said the health unit will be reaching out to area school boards to extend vaccines to eligible workers “in the coming weeks.”

Huron Perth public health extended vaccine eligibility to residents 65 and older on Wednesday.

COVID-19 in Ontario

Ontario reported 3,295 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday.

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It is the seventh time in eight days the province has topped 3,000 cases a day, with the highest number of new cases coming in Toronto with 933, Peel with 649, York with 386 and Durham with 165.

Ontario has now recorded 374,112 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, of which 35,553 are active. Another 338,559 cases have been resolved.

There were 19 deaths reported Thursday, raising the province’s COVID-19 death toll to 7,494.

There are 1,417 people in hospital with the disease and 525 patients in intensive care, a jump of 21 from the day before, with 331 of them on ventilators. 

-With files from Postmedia News and The Canadian Press

cmontanini@postemedia.com

CORONAVIRUS CASES: THE NUMBERS

(*Figures for Southwestern Ontario as of Thursday, April 8, 2021, at 12 p.m.)

  • Ontario — 374,112 cases
  • London-Middlesex — 7,952 cases, 190 deaths
  • Elgin-Oxford — 2,920 cases, 69 deaths
  • Brant — 1,961 cases, 14 deaths
  • Chatham-Kent — 1,665 cases, 12 deaths
  • Sarnia-Lambton — 2,955 cases, 52 deaths
  • Huron Perth — 1,446 cases, 51 deaths
  • Grey-Bruce — 878 cases, 3 deaths
  • Windsor-Essex — 14,234 cases, 405 deaths

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