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Coronavirus: 3 new cases, 1 new seniors’ home outbreak as assessment centres hit capacity before noon

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Three more people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus while a new outbreak has been declared at a seniors’ facility in the region, officials with the Middlesex-London Health Unit reported on Thursday.

It brings the region’s total case count to 825, of which 687 have recovered, a tally unchanged from the day before. At least 57 people have died, with the most death on June 12.

There are at least 81 known active cases in the region.

The ages and locations of the three cases announced Thursday is unclear.

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Health officials on Wednesday reported 12 new cases and two recoveries — the third time in seven days that cases rose by double-digits on one day. Seven cases were reported on Tuesday along with one recovery, while five cases and two recoveries were reported on Monday.

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So far, at least 764 cases have been reported in London during the pandemic, while 29 have been in Strathroy-Caradoc. At least 14 cases have been in Middlesex Centre, seven have been in Thames Centre, six in North Middlesex, four in Lucan Biddulph and one in Southwest Middlesex.

The health unit says a total of at least 93 cases have been reported overall this month.

“It is firmly of the opinion of myself from the Middlesex-London Health Unit that we were in wave two of the pandemic, both in Ontario and here in London and Middlesex,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, on Thursday.

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The total number of cases involving elementary and secondary schools in London and Middlesex remains unchanged at one. The case, reported by the health unit on Monday at H.B. Beal Secondary School, involves a student and remained active as of Thursday.

“We have not had any spread at this point in the community. That individual has not attended the school in several days, so it’s certainly possible that we could see spread from that first case, but the likelihood is declining,” Mackie said.

He noted that the health unit has actually recorded two cases involving students who are removed from the school system and doing distanced learning.

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“When we think of a school like Beal, largest high school in Ontario… to see a single case there is really not concerning. I think it’s really important for all parents to remember that choosing distance learning does not mean that your children are entirely safe from coronavirus,” he said.

Read more: Returning students could cause COVID-19 infections to double in University towns: New study finds

It’s unclear how many of the three cases reported Thursday, or the 12 cases reported Wednesday, involve post-secondary students. Health officials would not issue an exact tally, but say it’s been a trickle over the last several days compared to last week.

As many as 50 Western students have tested positive over the last two weeks, while at least two students from Fanshawe have become infected. Most of the Western cases are linked to gatherings at bars and private residences, health officials say.

Two community outbreaks have been declared in the region since Sept. 13 that are associated with students from the university.

One, dubbed “Western Student Outbreak Alpha,” has been largely linked back to three households, with a gathering at a downtown nightclub, and gatherings at off-campus houses, serving as main infection points. A second outbreak is linked to a large house party held on the weekend of Sept. 12-13.

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At least 40 cases have been linked to both incidents — 17 related to Western Student Outbreak Alpha, and 23 related to the house party. A handful of those cases do not involve Western students.

According to health officials, no new outbreak-linked cases have been reported for several days.

A third community outbreak was also declared at a northwest London Walmart after three staff members tested positive.

Since news of those Western cases first emerged last week, the city’s two COVID-19 assessment centres have been plagued with capacity issues and long wait times — in some instances stretching as long as four hours.

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In response, Mayor Ed Holder on Thursday called on the province to expand its plan to begin COVID-19 testing in pharmacies to London.

On Wednesday, the government said that up to 60 pharmacies will begin offering COVID-19 tests to asymptomatic people starting Friday. None of the initial pharmacies are in the London-area.

Read more: Mayor Ed Holder appeals to province over dire need for expanded COVID-19 testing

“While the majority of new cases in recent weeks have been occurring in Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa, I want to make sure the Premier’s office understands the dire need for expanded testing here in London and the immediate surrounding area,” Holder said in a statement.

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Holder’s plea comes the same day both of the city’s COVID-19 assessment centres reached capacity and closed before noon for the first time — Carling Heights within an hour of opening.

The health unit said both had hit capacity by 11:50 a.m. Oakridge Arena opens at 9 a.m. while Carling Heights opens at 11 a.m.

The two centres saw a total of 837 clients on Wednesday, beating the previous single-day high of 829 on Sept. 16. Wednesday also marked the second time during the pandemic that both facilities saw more than 400 clients each in one day.

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Thames Valley Family Health Team, which operates the centres alongside London Health Sciences Centre, in partnership with Middlesex-London EMS, told 980 CFPL this week that it’s working on implementing an appointment booking system that should be in place by early October.

On Wednesday, a ticketing system was introduced at Oakridge Arena so that people who fit the criteria to receive a test could come back at a later time.

Mike McMahon, executive director of Thames Valley Family Health Team, told 980 CFPL on Wednesday that he doesn’t believe there would be enough long-term demand to sustain a third assessment centre “at the behest of the government,” but he would like to have some kind of surge capacity.

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Read more: Low-risk, asymptomatic people should not get COVID-19 tests: Ontario health officials

The region’s running institutional outbreak tally rose by one Thursday after the health unit reported a declared outbreak at Country Terrace, a long-term care home located in Komoka.

It’s the first time since early June that London and Middlesex has seen three active institutional outbreaks at one time.

The latest outbreak, declared Wednesday, encompasses the entire facility of Country Terrace, according to the health unit.

The other two outbreaks remain active at Chelsey Park Retirement Community, declared Sept. 9 on its fourth floor, and at Ashwood Manor Retirement Home, declared on Sept. 21.

It’s not clear how many cases are tied to the three active outbreaks.

“It is not surprising. It is very concerning. We’re working closely with those facilities,” Mackie said Thursday, noting the changing weather means more people inside and more opportunity for the virus to spread.

“There are a lot of things where we have more experience now in terms of infection control expertise in those facilities. Now, the staff all have lots of experience in training, we have better pipelines for personal protective equipment. We’re not going to see the sort of mask shortages, for example, that we did in the spring.”

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At least 30 institutional outbreaks have been declared, including 24 at seniors’ facilities, and have been tied to 194 cases involving residents and staff and 35 deaths.

Read more: Virtual emergency clinic for children sees over 500 families since May: LHSC

The region’s seven-day average for new cases stood at 7.28 as of Thursday. Looking back to Sept. 10, the 14-day average is 6.14.

By age, health unit figures show people in their 20s account for the most number of cases, with 191, or about 23.2 per cent. So far this month, at least 38 of the 93 cases reported in the region have involved this age group.

While people 19 and under make up the sixth-largest group of cases by age — 69 overall — they have accounted for 30 of all cases reported this month.

People in their 50s make up 116 of the region’s cases, or about 14 per cent, while those in their 30s and those 80 and above make up 13 per cent of cases with 111 and 110, respectively.

Current hospitalizations in the region are unclear, as real-time data is not released by either the health unit or the city’s largest hospital system.

A total of 115 have been hospitalized, including 32 who have needed intensive care.

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Ontario

Provincially, Ontario reported 409 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and one new death.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 63 per cent of the new cases are in people under the age of 40.

She says 151 new cases are in Toronto, while 82 were in Ottawa and 46 in Peel Region.

The Ministry of Health says 286 cases were newly marked as resolved in today’s report.

Read more: Ontario reports 409 new coronavirus cases with most in Toronto-area, Ottawa

The new figures come as Doug Ford’s office says one of the premier’s junior staff members has tested positive for COVID-19.

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It says the staffer is part of Ford’s tour team, which organizes his appearances while travelling.

The premier’s office says Ford did not have close contact or prolonged exposure to the staffer and will monitor for symptoms.

Ford is still expected to participate in an announcement today on a new part of his fall pandemic preparedness plan.

Read more: Staff member of Premier Doug Ford’s tour team tests positive for coronavirus

Elliott’s office has confirmed the announcement will provide spending details related to testing and case and contact management.

The premier has already announced the province will launch a bolstered flu shot campaign in the coming weeks in a bid to preserve hospital capacity.

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Elgin and Oxford

One person has recovered from the novel coronavirus, officials with Southwestern Public Health said Thursday.

At least 263 cases in total have been reported in the region during the pandemic. Of those, at least 251 have now recovered. Five people have also died, most recently in early July.

The recovery, reported in Woodstock, leaves a total of six known active cases in the region. Of those, six are in Woodstock and one is in Central Elgin.

Health officials reported one recovery on Wednesday, one recovery Tuesday, and no change between Monday and Friday.

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Of the region’s seven active cases, four are in their 20s, while one each are in their 50s, 60s, and 80s. Five are male and two are female.

At least four of the cases became infected through close contact while one was through travel. Two are still under investigation.

Close contact is to blame for at least 106 cases in the region, while 39 are linked to workplaces, 27 to health care workers, 25 to travel, and 13 to social gatherings. Fifty-five are listed as unknown.

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By age, people in their 50s account for the largest age group of cases with 51, followed by people in their 20s with 48 and people in their 40s with 38.

At least 82 of the region’s cases have been reported in Aylmer, followed by 38 in Bayham, 37 in St. Thomas, 30 in Woodstock, 25 in Tillsonburg and 10 in Dutton/Dunwich.

The health unit says its test per cent positivity rate for the week of Sept. 13, the most recent that data is available, was 0.2 per cent. About 2,402 people were tested that week.

Huron and Perth

No new cases, deaths, or recoveries were reported by Huron Perth Public Health on Thursday.

The region’s total case count remains unchanged at 127, of which 121 people have recovered and five have died. At least one case remains active.

Health officials reported no change on Wednesday or Tuesday, and reported two recoveries on Monday.

Of the region’s cases, at least 27 have been linked to people in their 20s, followed by people in their 50s with 23 and people in their 60s with 22. At least 56 per cent of cases involve women and girls.

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By location, Perth County and Huron County have each reported 45 cases, while Stratford has seen 31, and St. Marys six. Four deaths have also been reported in Stratford, and one in St. Marys.

Within Perth County itself, North Perth has seen 16 cases and Perth East 15, while in Huron County, Central Huron has seen 14 cases, Bluewater 12, and South Huron 10.

The health unit says at least 35,083 tests have been conducted by the health unit as of Sept. 13. That week saw 1,925 tests completed and a per cent positivity rate of 0.2 per cent.

Sarnia and Lambton

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

The region’s total case count remains unchanged at 344, of which 318 have recovered. Twenty-five people have died.

There is currently one known active case in the region. Six cases have been reported so far this month.

Health officials reported one recovery late Tuesday, one case each late Monday and late Saturday, and no change on either Sunday or Friday.

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Health unit figures show close contact is tied to at least 135 cases, followed by outbreaks with 113 and travel with seven. Seventy-four cases have their exposure source listed as unknown. The exposure source for 15 cases was not immediately available.

People 80 and up account for 76 cases, while people in their 50s make up 52 and people in their 20s 49. At least 196 cases, or 57 per cent, involve women and girls.

There were no changes to the number of hospitalizations, which remains at a total of 58. The last to be reported was in late May.

Outbreaks also remained unchanged at 10. The outbreaks are linked to 109 cases and 16 deaths.

The health unit says at least 26,621 tests have been received as of late Wednesday. At least 1.3 per cent of tests are coming back positive.

— With files from Jacquelyn LeBel and The Canadian Press