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Coronavirus: 2 cases reported as MLHU data review raises local recovery tally by 29

Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020.
Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Two people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, while the number of recovered cases has jumped by nearly 30 following a review of health unit data, health officials in London and Middlesex reported Wednesday.

The cumulative number of confirmed cases for the region stands at 631, an increase of just one from the day before.

In a notice posted online, the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) said the discrepancy was the result of a case reported July 3 being assigned to another health unit’s jurisdiction.

Because of that, the region’s recent multi-day streak of no new cases actually lasted four days instead of three.

MLHU also noted that the number of reported recovered cases had risen from 517 to 546, an increase of 29, following “an administrative review of the data.”

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“This review will continue today and we expect more recovered cases to be added to tomorrow’s update.”

The number of reported deaths remains unchanged at 57, where it has stood since June 12.

Read more: Coronavirus: How other jurisdictions in the London, Ont., area are handling masks

According to the health unit, both of the new cases reported Wednesday are from London, Ont., and neither are health-care workers or seniors’ home residents.

London has seen at least 586 cases reported, while Strathroy-Caradoc has seen 22.

Elsewhere, Middlesex Centre has seen ten, Thames Centre six, North Middlesex five and Lucan Biddulph and Southwest Middlesex one each.

The region’s seven-day average for new cases stands at 0.85 per day as of Wednesday. Looking back 14 days to June 24, the average is 1.5.

In comparison, the region’s seven-day average was 13 per day between April 1 and 7.

Read more: Ontario Premier Doug Ford blasts long-term care homes without air conditioning

According to the health unit, there are no active outbreaks at seniors’ facilities in the region.

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The most recent outbreak to be declared over was on Thursday at Westmount Gardens.

As many as 26 outbreaks have been declared locally during the pandemic, with at least 21 that have been at local long-term care and retirement homes.

The facilities account for 180 of the region’s cases and 37 of its deaths, but have been linked to fewer cases reported in recent weeks.

Read more: Doctor blamed for Campbellton, N.B., COVID-19 outbreak won’t face criminal charges, seeks apology

Hospitalizations remain low in the region, according to London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).

While an exact tally isn’t known, the number of hospitalized cases is between zero and five, based on LHSC’s guidelines for releasing a tally.

St. Joseph’s Health Care London said Tuesday that it had no COVID-19 patients in its care at any of its facilities.

At least 112 of the cases reported in the region have needed hospital care, with 31 needing admittance into intensive care.

Patients over 60 make up a bulk of hospitalized cases in London and Middlesex, according to the health unit.

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Ontario

Provincially, Ontario reported 118 new cases on Wednesday along with nine new deaths.

The total number of cases now stands at 36,178, which includes 31,805 marked as resolved and 2,700 deaths.

The province is also reporting 202 newly resolved cases.

Read more: 118 new coronavirus cases, 9 deaths in Ontario; total cases at 36,178

Ontario completed more than 22,832 tests for the novel coronavirus over the previous 24 hours.

The number of people in hospital because of the virus, in ICUs and on ventilators, all slightly decreased.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 30 of the province’s 34 public health units are reporting five or fewer cases, with 18 reporting no new cases at all.

Coronavirus: Ontario government extends pandemic emergency orders
Coronavirus: Ontario government extends pandemic emergency orders

Ontario is expected to table a motion on Wednesday to extend the province’s state of emergency until July 24.

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The current state of emergency declared at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is set to expire July 15.

Elgin and Oxford

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One person has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials with Southwestern Public Health (SWPH) reported Tuesday.

It brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases in the region to 86, of which 78 have recovered and five have died — a tally that has not changed since April.

The new case was reported in Woodstock, health unit figures show.

The other two active cases in the region are both in Elgin County, with one in Dutton/Dunwich, and one in Malahide.

The health unit reported one recovery Tuesday, one new case over the weekend, and reported one death — the first since April 22 — and one new case on Friday.

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Read more: Elgin, Oxford, St. Thomas farms ordered to take extra measures to prevent spread of COVID-19

The health unit on Wednesday issued a Section 22 Class Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act outlining measures that must be followed at local farms to curb the spread of the virus.

Coronavirus: Ontario to expand COVID-19 testing for farm workers in Windsor-Essex
Coronavirus: Ontario to expand COVID-19 testing for farm workers in Windsor-Essex

The measures are effective noon Tuesday and will be in place until further notice.

Meantime, the health unit says it has not mandated the use of masks, given the county’s low case count and test positivity rate, which remains at one per cent.

But, the region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Joyce Lock, said last week, mandating masks would be on the table if a rise or significant change in activity is seen.

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According to Central Elgin Mayor Sally Martyn, whose municipality includes Port Stanley, the health unit told the region’s municipal leaders in a call Tuesday that it was looking into the matter further and would get back to them on Friday.

“I just believe it is important to wear masks indoors and believe, as we did with the beaches, we all put the rule in place at the same time so there is no confusion,” Martyn said by email Tuesday.

Read more: Advisory issued after possible COVID-19 exposure on Air Canada flight to Halifax

Overall, Elgin County has seen 41 confirmed cases of the virus, including 18 in St. Thomas, while Oxford County has seen 45, including 16 in Woodstock.

A total of three outbreaks have been reported, all since-resolved with no deaths.

At least 8,850 tests have been conducted in Elgin and Oxford counties, with 139 people still awaiting test results.

Huron and Perth

No new cases, deaths or recoveries have been reported, officials with Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) reported Wednesday.

The cumulative number of cases in the region remains unchanged at 58, with 52 recoveries and five deaths.

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Health officials reported no changes on Tuesday or Monday. One case was reported Friday.

The lone active case in the region is in Perth County.

The health unit says it has no current plans to implement a mask requirement using a Section 22 Class Order, and was instead focusing on an education piece surrounding mask use.

“While dense urban areas are at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission, Huron Perth is primarily a large rural area with small populations,” the region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Miriam Klassen, said last week.

“Currently in Huron Perth, the data do not reflect a high level of community transmission.”

Read more: WHO says ‘evidence emerging’ that coronavirus may be airborne

Overall, 26 cases and four deaths have been reported in Stratford, 14 cases have been reported each in Huron and Perth counties, and four cases and one death have been reported in St. Marys.

The four Stratford deaths were linked to a previous outbreak at Greenwood Court, one of nine that have been declared in the region.

As of Tuesday, 9,321 people had been tested in the region.

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Sarnia and Lambton

No new cases, deaths or recoveries were reported late Tuesday by health officials with Lambton Public Health.

It keeps the cumulative number of cases in the region at 286, of which 259 have recovered and 25 have died.

The health unit reported one recovery late Monday, one recovery late Saturday, and one case late Friday. It leaves two active cases in the region.

The county has continued to see very low numbers of new cases for the last several weeks, recording just 10 in the last three. No cases were reported from June 20 to July 3.

Read more: Could masks become mandatory in Calgary? Mayor isn’t ruling it out

Despite the province continuing to open up, and the region being home to a major border city and several popular beach towns, the health unit will not be issuing a county-wide Section 22 Class Order regarding masks.

Should masks become mandatory in public spaces across the country?
Should masks become mandatory in public spaces across the country?

In a letter to community leaders Tuesday, the region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Sudit Ranade, said he had concluded doing so was “not the best option to achieve the objective of protecting and promoting the health of the public” in Lambton.

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Ranade explained in an attached technical brief that there was a “low quality of evidence of benefit,” and “low certainty of benefit,” when it came to masks.

In addition, he said there were enforcement limitations, a lack of discussion when it came to potential harms, and the presence of “other mechanisms” to curb the virus, such as physical distancing and contact tracing and isolation.

Municipalities could enact their own mask bylaws, but he noted they “may be challenged before our courts on the basis of vagueness, bad faith, discrimination and/or as a violation of the Charter.”

In an interview with Blackburn News Sarnia Tuesday, Ranade said a number of jurisdictions had handled the virus well without making masks mandatory.

“It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, it just means, I think, that on some level, people are focusing on masks as the end-all-be-all, the way that they were focusing on testing last month,” he said.

“Everyone thinks this is what’s going to get us to normal. If we could just test everyone, if we could just put a mask on, everyone will get back to normal. And I think that assumption needs to be fundamentally called into question.”

Ranade also described what he called a bandwagon mentality surrounding masks.

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“There’re websites that list all the places that have masks. It just captures your mind about, ‘well, why aren’t we doing it if they’re doing it?'” he said.

“That’s one of the ways to view decision making, and I think the other way to view it is to say, ‘what is the issue? What is the evidence? What is the context that we live in?’ And then let’s make a decision based on those things.”

Read more: Florida teen dies of COVID-19 after maskless church party, taking Trump-touted drugs

With the low case numbers, hospitalizations have managed to remain at zero for nearly a month, according to Bluewater Health, who discharged its last COVID-19 patient on June 14.

The hospital said it had 12 people in its care who were suspected positive or had tests pending. The health unit says 57 people in the county have been hospitalized, with the most recent admission being May 31.

According to the health unit, 40 per cent of cases in the region are linked to outbreaks.

The county has seen at least nine declared, with 105 cases and 16 deaths associated with them. A vast majority of the cases, and all of the deaths, have involved two Sarnia seniors’ facilities.

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One outbreak was reported at Bluewater Health after three staff in its COVID-19 unit tested positive. At least 19 staff in total have tested positive during the pandemic.

In Lambton, people over the age of 80 make up a quarter of all cases, and make up nearly half of all outbreak-related cases with 71. Twenty per cent of outbreak-related cases, 40, involve people in their 20s.

Read more: With Calgary Stampede cancelled due to COVID-19, volunteers find new way to serve their city

At least 13,249 test results have been received by local health officials.

According to the health unit, 2.2 per cent of tests have come back positive as of late Tuesday.