Officials with the Middlesex-London Health Unit reported two new deaths and 94 new coronavirus cases on Thursday as the region and province entered a month-long stay-at-home order aimed at bringing down soaring COVID-19 rates across Ontario.
The update brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 4,804, of which 3,277 people have recovered, an increase of 65 from the day before.
At least 136 people have died during the pandemic, including 34 just since the start of January. Thursday marks the 14th day in a row the region has posted a COVID-19-related death, and the 13th day in a row the number reported has been at least two.
According to the health unit, the two deaths reported on Thursday involved a man in his 70s who was not associated with a seniors’ facility, and a man in his 80s whose death was linked to a long-term care home. No other information has been released.
At least 1,391 cases are currently active.
Health unit figures show at least 1,339 cases have been reported so far this month, a tally that is less than 400 cases shy of the monthly record set in December 2020.
Of the 94 new cases, 71 are from London, the health unit says. Nine cases are from Strathroy-Caradoc, three each are from Adelaide Metcalfe, Middlesex Centre and Thames Centre, and one each is from Lucan Biddulph, North Middlesex and Southwest Middlesex. Five cases are pending location data.
Those infected cover nearly all age brackets tracked by the health unit. No cases are reported involving people over 80. People in their 20s account for the largest number of new infections by age, as has been the case on previous days this week.
Ten cases involve people 19 or younger, 29 are in their 20s, 15 are in their 30s, 16 are in their 40s, 12 are in their 50s, nine are in their 60s and three are in their 70s.
With high case rates continuing to impact local contact tracing efforts, most of Thursday’s cases have pending or undetermined exposure source data. Ten are due to outbreaks, the health unit says.
During Thursday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, said it wasn’t clear if the downturn in new cases seen Thursday and Wednesday were any indication of a possible longer-term trend.
“I don’t think we have peaked yet. I think we’re still climbing. It’s nice to see things levelling off for a few days, but I don’t think that we’ve reached our highest case counts yet.”
The London-Middlesex region and the rest of Ontario came under a stay-at-home order as of 12:01 a.m. Thursday morning. The order was announced on Tuesday as the province enacted a second state of emergency.
The order requires residents to stay home except for essential outings, such as accessing health care, shopping for groceries or outdoor exercise. The province has said there’s no set definition for what is “essential” because everyone has their own unique circumstances and regional considerations.
There’s no limit on how many times people can leave their homes per day, or on how long they can be out, but Premier Doug Ford has urged people to use their “best judgment” in deciding whether to go out.
The city says many of its services will be available during the stay-at-home order virtually or by phone, but in-person services will only be offered “where they are legislatively required or in extenuating circumstances.” Further information on the impact the order will have at city hall is available here.
During Monday’s media briefing, London Mayor Ed Holder stressed that police can’t and won’t be stopping people and vehicles at random to enforce the order, and Londoners aren’t compelled to explain why they’re out.
“We’re by no means living in a police state, however, let me be clear, we are living under a state of emergency and for good reason. The letter of the law is one thing, the spirit of the law is another,” Holder said.
“In this case, the spirit or the overriding message from the premier is crystal clear: unless it’s for something absolutely essential, stay home. That’s it. It’s very straightforward… The primary concern should not be ‘if I do this, will I get a ticket?’ It should be ‘is this activity worth the risk that I or someone else might get infected with COVID?'”
In a statement Wednesday, London police Chief Steve Williams reiterated Holder’s comments, saying officers would not be stopping people and vehicles or entering homes for the singular purpose of ensuring compliance.
Earlier in the day, a spokesperson for the province’s solicitor general said the order did not give police the authority.
“Our enforcement will continue to be largely complaint-driven, or in instances where our officers observe something that contravenes the order, putting our community at risk,” Williams said.
In an earlier statement, Williams said the police response through the pandemic has been largely based on complaints in relation to gatherings that exceed provincial rules.
Under the order, indoor gatherings involving people outside of your immediate household are not permitted, and outdoor gatherings are limited to five people with social distancing and mask-wearing strongly urged.
The region’s seven-day case average stands at 110.28 as of Thursday, unchanged from the day before. The seven-day average was 80.28 as of Dec. 31.
The 14-day average, meantime, stands at 107.64, a slight decrease from Wednesday’s 107.64. The 14-day average was 75.78 as of Dec. 31.
The region’s cumulative incidence rate is 946.6 per 100,000 people, compared to Ontario’s 1,513.6.
Middlesex Centre remains the hardest-hit area when it comes to caseload, clocking in an incidence rate of 1,216 cases per 100,000 people. The locale has seen a total of 223 cases since the pandemic started.
London, meantime, which has seen 4,167 cases, has an incidence rate of 1,029.7 per 100,000.
Elsewhere, Strathroy-Caradoc has posted 166 cases, Thames Centre 86, Lucan Biddulph 30, Southwest Middlesex 27, North Middlesex 25, Adelaide Metcalfe 13 and Newbury two. At least 65 cases are pending location data.
The number of COVID-19 inpatients in the care of London Health Science Centre declined by two to 35 as of Thursday, the organization reported.
At the same time, active critical care and intensive care patients in hospital for COVID-19 also declined by one to 14.
Current staff cases at LHSC remain unchanged from the day before at 28.
At St. Joseph’s Health Care London, meantime, no COVID-19 patients were in the care of St. Joseph’s Hospital.
At least 19 staff members are currently infected with the virus, including 12 relating to an outbreak at Mount Hope Centre for Long-Term Care. Ten residents remain infected due to the outbreak, a decline from 11 the day before.
During the pandemic, at least 317 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 62 in intensive care.
In addition to increased pressure from higher COVID-19 patient loads, LHSC is also dealing with significant internal strife.
The latest in the ongoing saga came on Thursday when LHSC announced that the chair of its board of directors, Amy Walby, had handed in her resignation from the volunteer position.
The news came just one day after Dr. Paul Woods, the organization’s now-former president and CEO, filed a $2.5-million lawsuit against the hospital network over his firing on Monday.
LHSC’s board of directors had turfed Woods after it was made public last week that he had travelled to the U.S. five times during the pandemic last year to visit immediate family.
In the board’s initial statement last Friday confirming Woods’ travel, the board said it was “aware Dr. Woods continued to travel for personal reasons given the separation from his immediate family,” adding that Woods received the board’s support in his continued leadership.
Days later, following public backlash, the board flip-flopped, clarifying in a statement on Monday that while it was “aware of Dr. Woods’s personal circumstances,” it was not given advanced notice of, nor did it approve, his travel, noting there is no such formal process.
No new institutional outbreaks have been declared and none have been resolved.
At least 16 institutional outbreaks are active as of Thursday in London and Middlesex.
Two are located at Victoria Hospital, located in C6-100 – Geriatric Behavioral Unit and B41 Antenatal. Both outbreaks are linked to fewer than five patient and five staff cases and no deaths.
Outbreaks also remain active at several long-term care and retirement homes in the region, declared on:
- Jan. 11 at Elmwood Place (facility-wide)
- Jan. 10 at Queens Village (Memory Lane area)
- Jan. 9 at Fox Hollow Retirement Residence (first floor)
- Jan. 9 at Glendale Crossing (Lambeth, Westminster)
- Jan. 8 at Chelsey Park Retirement Community (fifth floor)
- Jan. 8 at Strathmere Lodge (Sydenham Meadows)
- Jan. 5 at Oneida Long-Term Care Home (facility-wide)
- Jan. 2 at Chelsey Park (Long-term Care – fifth floor, second floor)
- Dec. 26 at Earls Court Village (third floor)
- Dec. 26 at Extendicare (third floor, second floor)
- Dec. 26 at Oakcrossing Retirement Living (second floor)
- Dec. 23 at Middlesex Terrace (facility-wide)
- Dec. 22 at Mount Hope Centre for Long-Term Care (SM1, MV4, MV5. Outbreaks in SM2 and SM3 were resolved Jan. 6. At least 10 residents and 12 staff are currently infected and two people have died; a decrease of at least 11 resident cases from the day before.)
- Dec. 8 at Country Terrace (facility-wide)
Since March, the region has seen at least 87 institutional outbreaks in London and Middlesex, including at least 62 at local seniors’ facilities.
The health unit says seniors’ facility outbreaks are linked to at least 320 resident cases — an increase of three from Wednesday — and 311 staff cases — an increase of 14 from the day before.
They’re also tied to at least 66 of the region’s 134 deaths.
No new school cases were reported Thursday and none are currently active.
At least 175 cases have been reported tied to schools and child-care centres in London and Middlesex during the pandemic so far.
A previous outbreak declaration at Lord Dorchester Secondary School has been deemed over.
One child-care centre case is active, located at Tia’s Castle in London.
Students in the region, and across southern Ontario, will stay in remote learning until at least Jan. 25. Elementary school students in northern Ontario returned to in-class learning on Monday.
The union that represents teachers in Ontario’s Catholic school boards is calling for a provincewide extension of online learning during the province’s state of emergency.
Vaccinations and testing
Vaccinations continue at the Western Fair District Agriplex and at local long-term care homes.
During Thursday’s briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie said that health unit staff had vaccinated some 250 residents and some staff at Chelsey Park on Wednesday, adding that vaccinations at additional facilities will take place in the coming days, at a rate of about one facility per day.
Under the province’s vaccine plans, people in long-term care and retirement homes — residents in particular — are being prioritized for the vaccine.
“The primary goals in a pandemic are: number one, to reduce the number of deaths; number two, to reduce serious illness and hospitalizations; and number three, to reduce the overall impact on society, including the economy,” Mackie said.
“Because we know 60 per cent of the (provincial) deaths have been in long-term care — that’s in a population that represents less than 10 per cent of the population of Ontario, so wildly overrepresented in the death stats — we know that is the best place to maximize the impact of the vaccine at this point.”
Phase 1 of the province’s three-phase vaccine rollout is set to run until March 2021, with health-care workers; essential caregivers; adults in First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations; and adults who receive chronic home health care being added to the list of those to be vaccinated.
“This is a situation where there are very few doses of vaccine compared to the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands that want it in our region,” Mackie said.
Phase 2 of the plan is anticipated to begin at the start of April, with the vaccine becoming available to older adults, those who live and work in high-risk congregate settings, front-line essential workers and those with high-risk chronic conditions.
A total of 159,021 vaccine doses have been given in the province. At least 13,293 complete two-dose vaccinations have been administered.
At the federal level, Canada will have received a total of 929,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the week, officials said Thursday.
Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, the vice-president of logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada, says that includes the delivery of 380,000 fresh doses this week alone.
The shipment is set to include about 208,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and 181,000 doses of the one developed by Moderna.
In London, the city’s two main assessment centres have continued to see steady turnout, with Carling Heights recording an average of 485 visits per day over the last seven days.
Oakridge Arena, which is not open on weekends, has seen an average of 330 between Jan. 4 and 12. Both centres are continuing to operate by appointment only.
As of Friday, local assessment centres will no longer perform COVID-19 tests for international travel, in compliance with a recent provincial change.
Ontario is reporting 3,326 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and 62 more deaths linked to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 968 new cases in Toronto, 572 in Peel Region and 357 in York Region.
Vaccinations continued across Ontario with 14,237 doses administered since Wednesday’s update.
A total of 159,021 vaccine doses have been administered in the province.
Ontario has had 5,189 deaths and a total of 228,310 novel coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
The province says 3,593 more COVID-19 cases have been resolved, for a total of 193,814.
Hospitalizations dropped by 17 on Thursday to 1,657 across Ontario.
Three more people were put in intensive care for a total of 388 and four more were put on a ventilator, for a total of 280.
The province said nearly 71,200 tests were completed since the last daily report.
Elgin and Oxford
Two people have died and another 55 have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials with Southwestern Public Health reported on Thursday.
The region’s updated pandemic case tally stands at 1,920, of which 1,512 have recovered, an increase of 46 from the day before.
At least 39 people have died, 26 just this month, according to the health unit.
The two deaths reported on Thursday involved a 79-year-old man from Elgin and an 82-year-old woman from Elgin whose death is linked to an outbreak at Caressant Care Bonnie Place in St. Thomas.
At least 369 cases are active in the region, the health unit says. Of those, at least 112 are in Tillsonburg, while 72 are in St. Thomas.
Elsewhere, 45 are in Woodstock, 41 are in Aylmer, 34 are in Norwich, 16 are in East-Zorra and 14 are in Ingersoll. Eight other municipalities have active case counts under 10.
At least 12 people are in hospital as of Thursday, down from 16 on Jan. 7. Four people are currently in intensive care, up from three last week.
According to a provincial modelling document published Tuesday, the region’s largest hospital, St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital, is among one-quarter of hospitals in Ontario that had no free ICU beds as of late last week.
The hospital has eight L3 medical-surgical ICU beds and reported an occupancy rate of 120 per cent for the beds as of Jan. 8. COVID-19 patients pushed up the occupancy rate from just under 80 per cent, the document shows.
No new institutional outbreaks have been declared by the health unit and none have been declared over.
At least eight institutional outbreaks remain active, as declared at the following facilities on:
- Jan. 8 at Extendicare Port Stanley (one staff case)
- Jan. 6 at Trillium Retirement Home (12 resident, five staff cases)
- Jan. 4 at Goodness Retirement Living (one staff case)
- Jan. 4 at Caressant Care Bonnie Place – St. Thomas (two resident cases and one death; one more resident case than the day before)
- Jan. 1 at Woodingford Lodge – Woodstock (two resident, two staff cases)
- Dec. 19 at Terrace Lodge in Aylmer (five staff cases)
- Dec. 16 at PeopleCare Tavistock (40 resident, 33 staff cases, seven deaths)
- Dec. 12 at Maple Manor Nursing Home (80 resident, 48 staff cases, 13 deaths)
No new school cases have been reported either. No cases were listed as active by either the Thames Valley District School Board or the London District Catholic School Board.
It’s not clear if any cases have been reported at other schools, or at private schools as the health unit defers the reporting of school cases to the province, which is not currently updating its online database during remote learning.
St. Thomas has seen the highest number of cases in the region, 351, reporting a cumulative incidence rate of 902.1 cases per 100,000 people.
Aylmer has reported the second-highest number of cases, 314, and has a cumulative incidence rate of 4,191 cases per 100,000.
Elsewhere, Woodstock has seen 301 cases while Tillsonburg has seen 285, Norwich 159 and Bayham 142.
At least 81 cases have been in East-Zorra Tavistock, while 74 have been in Ingersoll, 44 in Blandford-Blenheim, 43 in Zorra, 36 in South-West Oxford, 32 in Central Elgin, 19 in Southwold, 17 in West Elgin, 15 in Dutton/Dunwich and six in Malahide.
Testing figures released Wednesday show at least six per cent of tests were coming back positive as of the week of Jan. 3, a slight decrease from 6.2 the week before.
The health unit says about 5,081 people were tested, down slightly from 5,149 the week before.
Huron and Perth
Twenty-nine people have tested positive for the coronavirus, while another 28 have recovered, Huron Perth Public Health reported on Thursday.
The update brings the region’s total case tally to 950, an increase of 28 from the day before. The health unit says the discrepancy comes after one previously confirmed case was reassigned to a different health unit.
At least 825 people have recovered and 25 have died. The most recent death was reported on Monday.
According to the health unit, a large bulk of Thursday’s cases come from one municipality: North Perth, which saw 20 new cases.
Elsewhere, two cases each were reported in Howick and South Huron, and one case each was reported in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, Central Huron, North Huron, St. Marys and West Perth.
Following the update, at least 100 cases remain active in the region. Nearly half, 47, are in North Perth, while 14 are in South Huron and 12 are in Stratford. Eleven other municipalities have active case tallies under five.
The region has reported at least 127 cases so far this month and 500 since Dec. 1.
The health unit says limited amounts of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are being distributed to long-term care residents in the region in keeping with the province’s distribution plan.
It comes in addition to the vaccines that have already been administered to staff since late last month at the Western Fair Agriplex in London.
As for the rest of the population, health officials stress that the province’s three-phase vaccine distribution plan and ethical framework is focusing on the highest-risk vulnerable populations as a first priority.
The health unit says a committee set up to guide vaccinations in the region, the Huron Perth Mass Vaccination Advisory Committee, is working on local sequencing models and distribution plans based on the province’s guidance and ethical framework.
“Additional groups will be identified in the sequencing model; as vaccines become available those groups will be contacted. For the general public, this is not likely for a few months,” the health unit said.
“HPPH asks the public to be patient and await further information – there is no vaccination waiting list set up for the general public.”
No new institutional outbreaks have been declared or have resolved in the county, but two active outbreaks have grown significantly in size, according to the health unit.
They include the region’s most recently declared outbreak at Caressant Care Nursing Home in North Perth. The outbreak, declared Jan. 10, has resulted in 15 residents becoming infected, an increase of 12 from the day before.
The facility’s retirement home also has an outbreak, declared on Jan. 7. It’s tied to 18 resident cases and three staff cases, an increase of seven resident cases compared to Wednesday.
A total of 10 institutional outbreaks are currently in effect, with eight at long-term care homes and two at retirement homes.
Active cases are located at the following facilities, declared on:
- Jan. 10 at Caressant Care Nursing Home in North Perth (15 resident cases; 12 more than the day before)
- Jan. 10 at Spruce Lodge in Stratford (one staff case)
- Jan. 8 at Fordwich Village in North Huron (two staff cases)
- Jan. 8 at Wildwood Care Centre in St. Marys (one staff case)
- Jan. 7 at Caressant Care Retirement Home in North Perth (18 resident, three staff cases; seven resident cases more than the day before)
- Jan. 7 at Greenwood Court in Stratford (one staff case)
- Jan. 4 at Knollcrest Lodge in Perth East (two staff cases)
- Jan. 3 at Seaforth Manor in Huron East (one staff case)
- Jan. 1 at Livingstone Manor in North Perth (two resident, two staff cases)
- Dec. 18 at Exeter Villa in South Huron [LTC] (36 resident, 10 staff cases)
At least 32 long-term care and retirement home outbreaks have been reported during the pandemic, linked to 207 of the region’s cases. A death toll relating to the outbreaks was not immediately available.
No new school cases have been reported by either the Avon Maitland District School Board or the Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board.
It’s unclear if any cases have been reported outside of the boards as the province has paused the public reporting of school cases during remote learning.
Cases remain currently active at:
- Avon-Maitland board
- Elma Township Public School
- F.E. Madill Secondary School
- South Huron District High School (four cases)
- St. Marys District Collegiate and Vocational Institute (three cases)
- Stratford District Secondary School (three cases)
The health unit says 412 cases have been located in Perth County, including 235 in North Perth and 127 in Perth East.
Elsewhere, 266 cases have been in Huron County, 245 have been in Stratford and 27 have been in St. Marys.
The region’s test per cent positivity rate stood at 3.3 per cent as of the week of Jan. 3 according to new figures released by the health unit. It’s a minor drop from the 3.5 per cent seen the week before. The region had a 2.5 per cent positivity rate as of the week of Dec. 20.
At least 3,616 people were tested during the week of Jan. 3, slightly higher than the 3,537 tested the week before.
A total of 83,792 tests have been conducted.
Sarnia and Lambton
Twenty-three people have tested positive for the coronavirus, while another 55 have recovered, Lambton Public Health reported on Thursday.
The update brings the county’s total pandemic case tally to 1,476, of which 1,219 have recovered. Twenty-eight deaths have been reported, most recently on Dec. 19.
At least 229 cases are active in Lambton as of Thursday, the health unit says. It’s not clear where they are located.
At least 11 people are in hospital, according to Bluewater Health. The tally is a decline of two from the day before.
The region has reported at least 629 cases since Jan. 1 as of Thursday. The tally is higher than all cases reported in the region between March 25 and Nov. 30, 2020.
The county’s weekly rate of new cases per 100,000 residents stands at 253, according to the most recent provincial figures. The rate is second in Ontario only to Windsor-Essex, whose figure is 323.
The City of Sarnia says a workplace outbreak involving at least five city staff members has resolved.
The outbreak had been declared on Dec. 29. The city had previously reported that two office employees at transit, two at city hall and one at public works had tested positive for the virus.
The city says city hall remains closed due to the pandemic.
Elsewhere, one institutional outbreak has been declared and one has been resolved.
The latest outbreak was declared on Wednesday at Vision Rest Home in Sarnia, linked to one staff case.
The resolved outbreak was located at Lambton Meadowview Villa, linked to two staff cases.
At least 10 institutional outbreaks are currently active in the region, located at the following facilities as declared on:
- Jan. 13 at Vision Rest Home (one staff case)
- Jan. 11 at Landmark Village in Sarnia (one staff case)
- Jan. 9 at Sumac Lodge in Sarnia (one staff case)
- Jan. 8 at Fiddick’s Nursing Home in Petrolia (one staff case)
- Jan. 8 at Fiddick’s Retirement Home in Petrolia (one staff case)
- Jan. 8 at Twin Lakes Terrace (LTC) in Sarnia (15 resident, two staff cases)
- Jan. 8 at Twin Lakes Terrace (Retirement) in Sarnia (one staff case)
- Jan. 4 at Fairwinds Lodge in Sarnia (five resident, two staff cases)
- Dec. 30 at Village on the St. Clair in Sarnia (21 resident, six staff cases; one more staff case than the day before)
- Dec. 19 at Trillium Villa in Sarnia (four staff cases).
Seniors’ facility outbreaks have been tied to 104 resident and 72 staff cases, and 16 deaths.
At the same time, the health unit says two outbreaks also remain active at two unspecified workplaces.
The outbreaks, declared Dec. 30, 2020 and Jan. 3, are tied to five and seven cases, respectively.
No information is available as to whether any new school cases have been confirmed.
The Lambton Kent District School Board says it is not reporting case data during the mandated remote learning period, while the St. Clair Catholic District School Board has not updated its online COVID-19 page since before the holidays.
The region’s weekly test per cent positivity stands at 6.2 per cent as of the week of Jan. 3 according to the health unit.
According to the health unit, some 4,614 people were tested during the week of Jan. 3, roughly the same as the previous week, when the test positivity rate was 6.8 per cent.
A total of at least 80,552 people have been tested in Lambton.
— With files from The Canadian PressView link »