Doctor in Sioux Lookout, Ont., area says spike in COVID-19 cases is a ‘wake up call’

Click to play video: 'Two more COVID-19 vaccine candidates release promising results' Two more COVID-19 vaccine candidates release promising results
WATCH ABOVE: Health Canada is reviewing AstraZeneca and Oxford University's COVID-19 vaccine for use, and Johnson & Johnson's shot may be close behind. Crystal Goomansingh looks at how each candidate compares to the shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, amid an urgent need for more vaccines. – Jan 29, 2021

A small spike in COVID-19 cases in northwestern Ontario Indigenous communities is a “wake-up call” for the area, a public health physician said Saturday as the province reported 2,063 new cases of the illness and 73 more deaths.

Dr. John Guilfoyle with the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority said Saturday that eight total active cases recently detected across five First Nations communities — Poplar Hill, Webequie, Pikangikum, Lac Seul and Nibinamik — appear to have been contained, according to contact tracing and testing so far.

Guilfoyle described the containment as good news, but said the situation is a reminder that taking precautions is more important than ever, especially given that cases were reported in four communities in a single day this week.

Read more: First COVID 19 vaccines administered in Sioux Lookout, Ont., long term care home

Story continues below advertisement

“This is really a wake-up call that the virus is close to our communities,” Guilfoyle said in a Saturday video update.

“To get cases in four communities in one day is absolutely new, and this is a pattern we don’t want to see repeated.”

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

He reminded people to stick to essential travel and continue following public health guidance by physically distancing from one another, wearing masks and staying within social bubbles. He noted such measures are more important than ever as a new and potentially more infections virus variant emerges in the province.

The variant known as B.1.1.7 that first emerged in the U.K. last year has been detected in health units across the province since it was first discovered in the Toronto area just over a month ago. Provincial health officials have said current research suggests the new strain is more infectious and potentially causes more severe illness.

As of Saturday, the province had confirmed 57 cases of the U.K. variant, with cases reported in new regions including Halton and Waterloo.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Canadian official discusses COVID-19 vaccine dose intervals' Coronavirus: Canadian official discusses COVID-19 vaccine dose intervals
Coronavirus: Canadian official discusses COVID-19 vaccine dose intervals – Jan 14, 2021

Public health officials in the Kingston, Ont., and Barrie, Ont., areas have said they suspect the actual number of U.K. variant cases is higher than the confirmed total.

Story continues below advertisement

In Barrie, an outbreak driven by the variant that began in a long-term care home has since infected well over 200 people. The region’s top doctor said this week he’s confident every case in the outbreak is the U.K. strain.

Ontario reported a provincewide total of 2,063 additional cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, and 73 more deaths linked to the virus.

Of 1,273 people hospitalized as of Saturday, the province said 353 patients were in intensive care and 216 were on ventilators.

The province reported 9,373 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered Friday, for a total of 336,828 across the province.

Guilfoyle also spoke to the importance of inoculations on Saturday, as the Sioux Lookout area prepares to roll out vaccine deliveries in several communities next week.

“The vaccination is key, it will protect you,” he said. “It is a lot better to get the vaccine than it is to get COVID.”

Sponsored content