With 12 days still left to go, January officially became the region’s worst month for new coronavirus cases on Tuesday after health officials reported four more deaths and 68 new infections.
The new monthly case record comes mere days after January set another grim milestone, becoming the region’s worst month for COVID-19-related deaths on Friday.
Tuesday’s update brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 5,149, of which 3,529 have recovered, an increase of 44 from the day before.
At least 156 deaths have been reported during the pandemic, including at least 50 just this month.
The four deaths reported Tuesday include a man and woman in their 60s who were associated with a long-term care home, a woman in her 100s who was associated with a long-term care home, and a man in his 70s who was not linked to a seniors’ facility.
Tuesday marks the 19th day in a row that the region has reported at least one COVID-19-related death. At least 18 days have seen two or more deaths.
At least 1,778 cases have been reported in the region since Jan. 1, surpassing the previous monthly record of 1,724 seen during the whole month of December.
Of the 68 new cases Tuesday, at least 59 were reported in London, health unit figures show. Elsewhere, two cases were reported in Thames Centre, and one case each were reported in Lucan Biddulph, Southwest Middlesex, and Strathroy-Caradoc. Four cases are pending a location.
Among those infected, people under 19 and people in their 20s are the largest groups by age.
At least 12 cases involve people 19 or younger, 20 are in their 20s, eight are in their 30s, five are in their 40s, nine are in their 50s, eight are in their 60s, two are in their 70s, and four are 80 or older.
Exposure source information is not available for 53 of the cases due to lags in contact tracing. Nine cases are due to close contact with a confirmed case, four are due to outbreak, and two have no known link.
During Monday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, said the provincewide lockdown implemented on Boxing Day may be to thank for the recent dip in cases.
“If people really dramatically change their activity on Dec. 26, you would see less disease activity showing up about a week after that. And that’s what we’re seeing here in the data. So as of the shutdown, we have seen dramatic declines in the rates in both … Middlesex-London and across Ontario,” he said.
“Most provinces are seeing significant declines over the last couple of weeks. We’re still at very high levels, higher than we were anywhere before December of 2020, but the trend is in the right direction and that makes a big difference.”
Mackie was also asked about concerns over the coronavirus variant, B.1.1.7, first located in the U.K.
One previously confirmed case has been found to involve the variant. The person had no travel history, meaning they became infected through someone else. In a tweet over the weekend, Mackie said the person had been confirmed positive for the virus in December, meaning the variant “has likely been here for about two months.”
The variant has alarmed officials in many nations because studies indicate it may spread more easily than other coronavirus strains, though it is not believed to be more deadly and appears to be vulnerable to vaccines.
“I was in touch with the provincial lab, they’ve tested with partners, research labs, about 4,000 different samples for COVID-19 and only 15 have come back positive for the U.K. variant anywhere in Ontario,” Mackie said.
“So it’s actually a very small part of the overall picture in Ontario at this point.”
In Canada, roughly five per cent of positive virus samples are sequenced for the U.K. variant, something Mackie says doesn’t concern him.
“What we’re seeing in that five per cent is that it’s a very, very small fraction coming out as U.K variant, so that means this is not a major driver of our pandemic waves here.”
The province remains under the stay-at-home order.
On Monday, police Chief Steve Williams stressed in a video that the order does not give police the authority to arbitrarily stop people and vehicles to check compliance, adding that the overwhelming majority of their enforcement, done in partnership with bylaw officials and the health unit, has involved responding to complaints about large gatherings.
Williams says that while the order enhanced their ability to enforce compliance, such as the authority to disperse gatherings and ticket those found in contravention of the order, police would much rather residents voluntarily comply.
“However,” he said, “if a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that an individual(s) or corporation is in contravention of the order, enforcement may result.”
Police will not be enforcing the order when it comes to Londoners who are homeless or are “sleeping rough” and have no stable housing, he said.
As of Tuesday, the region’s seven-day case average is 80.0, a slight decrease from 82.12 on Monday. The 14-day average, meantime, is 94.5, down from 101.35 on Monday.
The cumulative incidence rate for London-Middlesex is 1,014.5 per 100,000 people compared to Ontario’s 1,617.
Middlesex Centre has been the municipality hardest hit by cases. Clocking in at just 231 cases, due to its lower population size, the caseload is equivalent to 1,307 cases per 100,000 people.
London, which has seen 4,449 cases, has an incidence rate of 1,099 per 100,000.
Elsewhere, Strathroy-Caradoc has reported 181 cases, Thames Centre 89, Lucan Biddulph 33, Southwest Middlesex 29, North Middlesex 29, Adelaide Metcalfe 13 and Newbury two.
At least 94 cases are pending location data.
The number of COVID-19 inpatients currently in the care of London Health Sciences Centre has fallen by four to 29.
Inpatients in critical/intensive care also fell by one to nine.
At the same time, active staff cases fell by one to 26, the organization said.
At St. Joseph’s Health Care London, no COVID-19 inpatients were reported in the care of St. Joseph’s Hospital, however at least 10 SJHCL staff remain sick with the virus.
At least seven of them are linked to a facility-wide outbreak at Mount Hope Centre for Long-Term Care. At least seven residents/patients are also currently sick, down from a peak of 22 last week. Five people have died.
Health unit figures show at least 326 people have been hospitalized in the region due to the coronavirus during the pandemic, including 63 who have needed intensive care.
During Monday’s media briefing, Dr. Adam Dukelow, LHSC’s chief medical officer, announced that as of Wednesday, five operating rooms are being brought back online — two at University Hospital and three at Victoria.
“This will bring University Hospital to 11 of 14 rooms, or approximately 75 per cent operating room capacity, (and) Victoria Hospital… to just under 90 per cent capacity,” he said.
“The focus of this incremental increase will be on patients that do not require an overnight stay. We will be evaluating our operating capacity daily and we are prepared to decrease that activity if required due to COVID surge. Similarly, where we have capacity, we’ll continue to increase activity.”
No new institutional outbreaks have been declared or resolved, the health unit says.
At least 18 institutional outbreaks are currently active in the region.
Four of them are located at hospitals in the region, including three at LHSC.
According to LHSC, an outbreak at UH, declared Jan. 15 in its adult emergency department, has been tied to eight staff cases as of Tuesday, one more than the day before. No patient cases and no deaths have been reported.
University Hospital had previously been the scene of at least 11 unit-level outbreaks between Nov. 10 and Dec. 28 that left a total of 82 patients and 92 staff members infected and 29 dead.
Meantime, two outbreaks at Victoria Hospital, declared Jan. 6 in B41 Antenatal and Jan. 12 in C6-100-Geriatric Behavioural Unit, are linked to fewer than five patient and five staff cases each. No deaths have been reported.
A hospital outbreak also remains active at Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital in 2 South, the health unit says. It’s unclear how many cases have been reported.
Multiple outbreaks remain active at long-term care and retirement homes.
Active outbreaks at seniors' facilities as declared on:
- Jan. 16 at Longworth Retirement Residence (facility-wide)
- Jan. 14 at Kensington Village (first floor of long-term care home)
- 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 (third and fifth floors)
- 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 Extendicare (facility-wide)
- Dec. 23 at Middlesex Terrace (facility-wide)
- Dec. 22 at Mount Hope Centre for Long-Term Care (facility-wide; at least seven residents are currently infected, up from six on Monday. At least seven staff are currently infected, down from 16. Five people have died, one more than Monday)
- Dec. 8 at Country Terrace (facility-wide).
Meantime, an outbreak declared on Monday at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre also remains active. The outbreak was declared after four staff members of the south London jail tested positive for the virus.
Provincial data shows two inmate cases have been reported at the jail during the pandemic, most recently in October.
No new school cases have been reported in the region.
Only one is currently active, reported on Saturday at Clarke Road Secondary School by the Thames Valley District School Board.
According to the health unit, at least 177 cases have been reported at schools and child-care centres since the start of September.
One case is currently active at a local child-care centre. The health unit says the case is at London Bridge: Huron Heights Early Childhood Learning Centre.
Students in the region, and across southern Ontario, will stay in remote learning until at least Jan. 25, however that may be extended given the province’s state of emergency declaration and the ongoing stay-at-home order.
Vaccinations and Testing
Local health officials continue to prioritize long-term care residents and staff for the coronavirus vaccine, a population who are most risk from the virus and who have accounted for a disturbing percentage of the province’s COVID-19 deaths.
During Monday’s media briefing, Dr. Mackie said the health unit’s recent campaign to vaccinate all long-term care home residents was expected to be finished by the end of Saturday.
“All of the residents in long-term care homes in Middlesex and London will be vaccinated by the end of the day on Jan. 23,” he said.
Mackie said health unit teams were slated to visit and vaccinate residents at Chartwell London, Craigwell Gardens, Dearness Home, Elmwood, Extendicare London, Henley Place, McGarrell Place, Meadow Park, and Mount Hope over the next four days, not necessarily in that order.
“Once long-term care home residents are all vaccinated, we will be turning to the residents of high-risk retirement homes, and there are about half a dozen more homes in that category to vaccinate,” Mackie noted.
“Three of those homes will be done this week because they’re co-located with long-term care facilities.”
Roughly 9,000 to 10,000 doses had been administered already in the region, Mackie said, adding that the health unit has been told that there will be additional doses of the vaccine available over the next two months, allowing the rest of those outlined under Phase 1 of the province’s vaccination distribution plan to get a shot.
On Tuesday, the province announced its weekly deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be cut by as much as 80 per cent over the next month due to a production slowdown at the pharmaceutical company.
The government says shipments are expected to get back to normal levels in late February and early March.
The province still expects to meet its goal of providing the first dose of the vaccine to all long-term care residents, workers and essential caregivers in Ontario by Feb. 15.
At the same time, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the Canadian military commander co-ordinating the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, announced Canada’s shipments of the vaccine would be cut by nearly one-fifth this week and then go down to zero next week.
It’s unclear how this news will impact vaccine dose levels in London and Middlesex.
Phase 2 is set to come into place in April.
London’s two assessment centres continue to see very high demand.
Carling Heights has seen an average of about 450 visits per day over the last seven days. Oakridge Arena, which is closed on weekends, reported an average of 331 visits between Monday and Friday of last week.
Ontario reported 1,913 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and 46 more deaths linked to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said that due to a technical issue at Toronto Public Health, there was likely an underreporting of cases.
Elliott said Toronto reported 550 new cases of the novel coronavirus. The city has reported 815, 1,035 and 903 new cases over the past three days.
Elliott also said there were 346 new cases in Peel Region and 235 in York Region.
More than 34,500 tests were completed since Ontario’s last daily report.
Ontario also reported that 14,346 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since the last daily update.
A total of 224,134 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province.
There have been a total of 242,277 COVID-19 cases in Ontario since the pandemic began.
Of those, 242,277 have been resolved and there’s been a total of 5,479 deaths in the province linked to the virus.
Elgin and Oxford
Two people have died and 31 others have tested positive for the coronavirus, Southwestern Public Health reported Tuesday.
The update brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 2,099, of which 1,706 have recovered, an increase of 65 from the day before.
At least 47 people have died, including 33 just this month.
According to health officials, the two deaths reported on Tuesday involved two women from Elgin County, aged 62 and 88, who were not associated with any long-term care or retirement home outbreak in the region.
As of Tuesday, at least 346 cases are active in Elgin and Oxford. At least 87 of them are in Tillsonburg while 52 are in St. Thomas.
Updated hospitalization figures won’t be released until Thursday. As of late last week, 12 people were in hospital, with four in intensive care.
At least 720 cases have been reported since Jan. 1, according to health unit figures.
One new institutional outbreak has been declared in the region, according to the health unit.
The outbreak, at Harvest Crossing Retirement Home in Tillsonburg, is linked to one staff case there.
The outbreak is among at least 11 currently active at local seniors’ facilities.
- Jan. 18 at Harvest Crossing Retirement Home in Tillsonburg (one staff case)
- Jan. 16 at Chartwell Oxford Gardens (one staff case)
- Jan. 16 at Seasons Retirement Home in St. Thomas (one staff case)
- Jan. 15 at Dayspring Residence in Tillsonburg (one resident case)
- Jan. 8 at Extendicare Port Stanley (two staff cases)
- Jan. 6 at Trillium Retirement Home (13 resident, five staff cases)
- Jan. 4 at Caressant Care Bonnie Place – St. Thomas (two resident cases and one death)
- Jan. 1 at Woodingford Lodge – Woodstock (two resident, one staff case)
- Dec. 19 at Terrace Lodge in Aylmer (six staff cases; one staff case more than the day before)
- Dec. 16 at PeopleCare Tavistock (40 resident, 37 staff cases, seven deaths)
- Dec. 12 at Maple Manor Nursing Home (83 resident, 52 staff cases, 17 deaths; two resident and one staff case more than the day before).
At least 22 institutional outbreaks have been declared in the region during the pandemic.
No new school cases have been reported. No cases were listed as active by either the Thames Valley District School Board or the London District Catholic School Board.
Whether any cases have been reported at any other school boards, or at private schools, is unclear. The health unit does not report school cases itself, instead deferring to the province’s online database, which is not being updated amid remote learning.
According to the health unit, St. Thomas has seen the largest number of cases in the region with 368, compared to 338 in Woodstock, 333 in Aylmer, and 309 in Tillsonburg.
At least 181 cases have been in Norwich, 152 in Bayham, 90 in East Zorra-Tavistock, 85 in Ingersoll, 50 in Zorra, 45 in Blandford-Blenheim, 42 in South-West Oxford, 41 in Central Elgin, 23 in Southwold, 19 in West Elgin, 15 in Dutton/Dunwich, and seven in Malahide.
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. New figures are expected Wednesday.
The health unit says about 5,081 people were tested, down slightly from 5,149 the week before.
Huron and Perth
One person has died and 37 others have tested positive for the coronavirus, Huron Perth Public Health announced Tuesday.
It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 1,068, an increase of just 36 from the day before. The health unit says one previous case was reassigned to a different health unit.
At least 889 people have recovered, an increase of nine from the day before, and at least 27 deaths have been reported. Details on the two deaths reported on Tuesday were not immediately available.
Of the new cases reported Tuesday, 23 are from North Perth, while four are from Stratford, and three from Huron East.
Elsewhere, two were reported in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, and one case each was reported in Central Huron, Morris Turnberry, South Huron, St. Marys, and West Perth.
The health unit says at least 152 cases are active in the region, with at least 88 of them located just in North Perth. Elsewhere, 21 cases are active in Stratford.
At least six people are currently hospitalized for the virus. At least 29 of the region’s active cases involve health-care workers.
One new institutional outbreak has been declared in the region, located at Seaforth Manor in Huron East. The outbreak, declared Sunday, is linked to one resident and two staff cases.
It’s the third outbreak to be reported at the home since the start of December. Two outbreaks, running Dec. 5-10, and Jan. 3-14, were both linked to one staff case each.
One outbreak has also been declared over. Located at Livingstone Manor in North Perth, the outbreak, declared on Jan. 1, was linked to two resident and two staff cases.
Elsewhere, an outbreak at Caressant Care Nursing Home in North Perth has grown significantly since the health unit’s previous update. The outbreak, declared Jan. 10, is now linked to 40 resident and 16 staff cases, an increase of 13 and three, respectively.
An outbreak at the facility’s retirement home has also grown. That outbreak, declared on Jan. 7, is now tied to 25 resident and seven staff cases, an increase of six and one from the day before.
Outbreaks remain active at seven other long-term care homes and two retirement homes, as declared on:
- Jan. 17 at Seaforth Manor in Huron East (one resident, two staff cases)
- Jan. 16 at Exeter Villa in South Huron [Retirement Home] (one resident, two staff cases; one case more each than the day before)
- Jan. 10 at Caressant Care Nursing Home in North Perth (40 resident, 16 staff cases; 13 and three 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 (25 resident, seven staff cases; six and one more, respectively, 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)
- Dec. 18 at Exeter Villa in South Huron [LTC] (36 resident, 11 staff cases)
An outbreak also remains active at Stratford General Hospital, tied to four staff cases, a tally unchanged from the day before.
Meantime, three new school cases have been reported by the Avon-Maitland District School Board.
Two cases have been reported involving Stratford Intermediate School and one involving Stratford District Secondary School. Both cases were deemed “non-school exposure” by the health unit.
No cases were reported by the Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board.
Sixteen cases are presently active in the region at the following schools, all under the Avon-Maitland Board:
- Avon-Maitland board employee
- Clinton Public School (two cases)
- Listowel District Secondary School
- South Huron District High School (four cases)
- St. Marys District Collegiate and Vocational Institute (three cases)
- Stratford District Secondary School (three cases)
- Stratford Intermediate School (two cases).
Of the region’s overall cases, 472 have been in Perth County, with 290 in North Perth and 128 in Perth East.
Elsewhere, 299 have been in Huron County, while Stratford has reported 267 cases and St. Mary’s 29.
The region’s test positivity rate stood at 3.3 per cent as of the week of Jan. 3, a minor drop from the 3.5 per cent the week before.
At least 3,616 people were tested during the week of Jan. 3, slightly higher than the 3,537 tested the week before. Updated figures are expected on Wednesday.
Sarnia and Lambton
Twenty-eight people have tested positive for the coronavirus while another 44 have recovered, Lambton Public Health said on Tuesday.
It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 1,675, of which 1,418 have resolved and 33 have died. The two most recent deaths were reported by the health unit on Monday.
The update leaves 223 active cases in the region. It’s not clear where they are located as the health unit does not issue that information. At least 10 people were hospitalized at Bluewater Health as of Tuesday morning, a drop of five from the day before.
The region has reported at least 828 new cases just during the month of January, nearly as many as were reported in the region through all of 2020 — 847.
No new institutional outbreaks have been reported by the health unit and none have been declared over.
One workplace outbreak has been declared over. Declared on Jan. 3 at an unnamed workplace, it was linked to seven cases. Two workplace outbreaks remain active, tied to 11 cases.
Elsewhere, an outbreak remains active at Sarnia’s jail, linked to four staff cases, while 10 outbreaks remain active at long-term care and retirement homes in the county, declared on:
- Jan. 15 at Marshall Gowland Manor in Sarnia (one staff case)
- Jan. 13 at Vision Rest Home (16 resident, two staff cases)
- Jan. 11 at Landmark Village in Sarnia (two staff cases)
- 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 (16 resident, five 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 (22 resident, nine staff cases; one more staff case than the day before).
It’s unclear whether any new school cases have been reported during the remote learning period, as both the Lambton Kent District and St. Clair Catholic District school boards have paused public reporting for the time being.
County politicians and health unit officials will meet Wednesday to discuss the vaccine rollout plan for Lambton in preparation for the first shipments of vaccine.
The region’s weekly test positivity rate stood at 6.2 per cent as of the week of Jan. 3, with some 4,614 people tested, roughly the same as the previous week, when the test positivity rate was 6.8 per cent. New figures are expected Wednesday.
A total of at least 80,552 people have been tested in Lambton.
— With files from The Canadian PressView link »