Advertisement

COVID-19: 54 new cases in London-Middlesex; region’s variant case tally rises by 18

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (greenish brown) heavily infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (pink), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH

Jump to: HospitalizationsOutbreaksSchoolsVaccinations and TestingOntarioElgin and OxfordHuron and PerthSarnia and Lambton


Fifty-four new coronavirus cases have been reported in London-Middlesex, local health officials said Friday in what’s the region’s largest single-day case jump since late January.

In addition, the number of previous cases that have screened variant in the region has risen by 18 from the previous day, the largest increase so far.

The overall case increase brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 6,772, of which 6,297 have resolved, an increase of seven from the day before.

At least 185 deaths have been reported, most recently on March 8. The region’s first recorded COVID-19-related death occurred one year ago tomorrow.

Story continues below advertisement

At least 290 cases are listed as being active in the region as of Friday, according to the health unit.

London-Middlesex has recorded at least 589 cases since the start of the month, more than was recorded through all of February.

The region remains in the orange-restrict level of the province’s COVID-19 response framework, however, local health officials have stressed that if current case trends continue, the province could potentially put the region back into red or lockdown in the coming weeks.

Click to play video: 'Canada’s top doctors call for ‘last big push’ in limiting gatherings ahead of spring holidays' Canada’s top doctors call for ‘last big push’ in limiting gatherings ahead of spring holidays
Canada’s top doctors call for ‘last big push’ in limiting gatherings ahead of spring holidays – Mar 26, 2021

Of the 54 new cases reported, 44 are from London, seven are from Middlesex County, and three are pending location data.

Those infected skew younger, with more than half involving people under the age of 30.

Eleven cases are aged 19 or younger; 19 are in their 20s; nine are in their 30s; six are in their 40s; seven are in their 50s, and two are in their 60s. No cases involve people over 70.

Story continues below advertisement

Exposure source data is not known for 27 cases, while 18 are listed as being due to close contact and one to an outbreak. Eight have no known link.

According to the health unit, the number of cases in the region that have screened variant positive has increased by 18 from the day before to a total of 87 — the largest single-day increase so far.

At least five have been confirmed to involve the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K. The rest remain under investigation.

Read more: COVID-19 cases rising among young Canadians as deadlier variants begin to dominate

People under the age of 30 make up more than half of the region’s screened variant cases, with 21 involving people 19 or younger, and 29 involving people in their 20s.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in London-Middlesex by episode month and variant of concern. Middlesex-London Health Unit

Such variants of concern have been accounting for more and more local cases, helping push the region’s caseload higher.

Story continues below advertisement

But local health officials say variants aren’t just to blame.

“The big climb in cases recently has been directly related to close personal contact indoors without personal protective equipment,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, on Thursday.

“That’s been the cause of the vast majority of cases recently as it has been for most of this pandemic. So we, again, encourage people to keep your interactions online, outside, masked, distanced — take those precautions, they make a difference.”

Earlier this week, the number of close contacts being reported per-case numbered eight to 10, according to the health unit.

Click to play video: 'Current measures insufficient to slow rapid coronavirus variants’ spread: Tam' Current measures insufficient to slow rapid coronavirus variants’ spread: Tam
Current measures insufficient to slow rapid coronavirus variants’ spread: Tam – Mar 26, 2021

Mackie says despite the increasing number of vaccinated residents, other countries that have much higher immunization rates have seen case and death rates rise after restrictions were lifted too soon.

Story continues below advertisement

“The vaccine campaign is moving forward, it’s moving forward as quickly as possible based on the supplies, but we cannot outrun human behaviour if people start to take on more risks,” he said.

He noted that if cases continue to rise at current rates, the region should anticipate being placed into red-control or lockdown by the province.

“That’s certainly likely if we continue on the current trend. I would put that at least a couple of weeks out, but if cases accelerate, it could be sooner,” he said.

Health officials have attributed the lower recent death toll to the ongoing vaccination campaign. Just one death has been reported so far this month.

“If you compare it to November — we had similar rates of cases in November — by this time in the month, we had six deaths,” Mackie said.

That is essentially all attributable to the vaccine campaign. We’re getting the vaccine into the right arms and protecting people from death.”

Read more: Fact or Fiction: Will cleaning air ducts curb COVID-19 transmission?

The region’s seven-day case average stood at 33 as of Friday, while the 14-day average stood at 27.14.

Story continues below advertisement

At least 5,913 cases have been confirmed in the city of London since the pandemic began, while 265 have been in Middlesex Centre.

Elsewhere, 218 cases have been in Strathroy-Caradoc, 98 in Thames Centre, 59 in Lucan Biddulph, 41 in Southwest Middlesex, 40 in North Middlesex, 14 in Adelaide Metcalfe and two in Newbury.

At least 122 cases have pending location information.

Hospitalizations

The number of COVID-19 inpatients in the care of London Health Sciences Centre stands at 13 as of Friday, a decrease of one from the day before.

At the same time, six people are said to be in critical or intensive care, unchanged from the day before.

Fewer than five staff cases are active within LHSC, the organization says, down from six the day before.

Read more: Ontario ICU capacity reaching critical level due to COVID-19 variants: hospital group

At St. Joseph’s Health Care London, meantime, the organization says three non-outbreak cases are currently active involving health-care workers. It’s not clear at which SJHCL facility the staff members work.

At least 373 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19 during the pandemic, including 68 who have needed intensive care.

Story continues below advertisement

Institutional outbreaks

No new institutional outbreaks have been declared in the region, but one has been declared over.

The outbreak at Richmond Woods had been declared on Feb. 28, according to the health unit.

It’s the second seniors’ facility outbreak to be resolved this week after one at Chartwell Royalcliffe Retirement Residence ended on Tuesday.

As of Friday, three institutional outbreaks remain active, with two at seniors’ facilities, declared on March 11 at Glendale Crossing (Brighton) and March 12 at Dearness Home (2E/2W), and one at University Hospital.

The University Hospital outbreak, declared March 12, involves the hospital’s U4-Medicine 1 unit, also known as 4IP General Medicine, the same unit that saw a significant outbreak in the fall.

The current outbreak has not seen the same trajectory as the previous one. As of Friday, only six patient cases had been linked to the outbreak, along with fewer than five staff cases and no deaths, all unchanged from Thursday.

Read more: Will we need vaccine passports for vacations? Expert answers travel questions

Elsewhere, a non-institutional outbreak remains active at the city’s jail. The Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre outbreak was declared on Jan. 18 and has been linked to at least 30 inmate and 29 staff cases.

Story continues below advertisement

At least one inmate case was listed active at the jail as of Wednesday, according to provincial data. Similar information was not immediately available for staff cases.

A separate community outbreak linked to post-secondary parties that was declared earlier this month has seen no increase in cases since late last week. At least 49 cases had been confirmed as a result of the outbreak.

Schools

At least four new school cases have been reported in London-Middlesex, according to the health unit.

The Thames Valley District School Board reported one case each late Thursday at Nicholas Wilson Public School and Westminster Secondary School, both in London.

The London District Catholic School Board, meantime, reported one case each at Holy Rosary Catholic Elementary School and Mother Theresa Secondary School, both in London.

The health unit says at least 16 cases are active in the region that are associated with local schools. A full list can be found on the MLHU website.

One outbreak is listed as active, located at Wilberforce Public School.

Read more: Ontario school board group calls for teachers to get COVID-19 vaccination over spring break

Story continues below advertisement

At least 234 cases have been confirmed at local elementary and secondary schools, while 28 have been associated with child care and early years settings, the health unit says.

Two cases associated with child care/early years settings were listed as active Friday.

One is associated with London Bridge: Huron Heights Early Childhood Learning Centre in London, while the others involve YMCA Before and After School Program – North Meadows Elementary School in Strathroy-Caradoc.

In the post-secondary world, an outbreak, declared March 2, remains active at Western University’s Essex Hall student residence.

Vaccinations and testing

More than 64,783 doses have been administered in the region as of March 21, the most recent figures available from the health unit.

Eligibility opened Monday to residents 75 to 79 and expanded further on Wednesday to Indigenous adults 16 or older and to certain faith leaders at increased risk of COVID exposure as part of their regular roles, such as end-of-life care and home visits to unwell persons.

More information on eligibility can be found on the health unit’s website.

Eligible residents are asked to visit covidvaccinelm.ca or call 226-289-3560 (9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.) to book an appointment. Online appointments are encouraged due to the high call volume.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: COVID-19 vaccine tracker: How many Canadians are vaccinated?

Vaccine demand has continued to outpace supply, says Dr. Chris Mackie.

The local campaign has been operating on an “earn and burn” strategy, which has seen the vaccine administered quickly or quicker than it is coming into the community, Mackie said Thursday.

Because of the lacklustre rate of incoming doses, the region’s three mass vaccination clinics have been operating well below their maximum capacity, he added.

“Those could vaccinate 4,500 people per day. At the moment, we’re receiving vaccines in the order of 2,000-2,200 per day,” Mackie said.

“We’ve had our most recent allocation forecasting received (Thursday), and over the next few weeks the province is not expecting any increase in vaccines here.”

As a result of the supply issues, the health unit has had to delay the opening of its planned fourth vaccination clinic at Earl Nichols Recreation Centre. It’s not clear when the facility is set to open.

“We’d love to have a good reason to open that fourth mass vaccination centre right now, we just have nowhere near the vaccine that would justify that at this point,” Mackie said.

Story continues below advertisement

During Thursday’s briefing, Mackie was asked again when doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine may make their way to pharmacies in the London-Middlesex region as part of the province’s pilot project.

A pilot offering the vaccine to people 60 and older started this month in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor pharmacies.

The pilot will expand to 700 locations across the province in the coming weeks, then to approximately 1,500 sites as supply becomes available.

Health officials overseeing Elgin-Oxford have said that at least three pharmacies there would begin carrying the vaccine in the coming weeks.

“We have heard various rumours through pharmacies about AstraZeneca vaccine coming to them sometime along a similar timeline, perhaps in the next couple of weeks,” Mackie said.

Story continues below advertisement

We haven’t heard any confirmation of that, and no direct communication about it from the Ministry of Health.

Mackie also didn’t have an estimate for when the region would expand vaccines to those 70-74, as has begun in some other regions.

Read more: Doctors, patients worry about delayed 2nd COVID-19 vaccine doses for transplant recipients

The region’s two main assessment centres, located at Carling Heights and Oakridge Arena, remain open and operating by appointment.

The Carling Heights site saw an average of 429 daily visits between March 15 and 19, while Oakridge Arena saw an average of 346.

The region’s test positivity rate stood at 1.6 per cent as of the week of March 14, up from 1.2 the previous week.

Story continues below advertisement

Ontario

Ontario is reporting 2,169 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and 12 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 682 new cases in Toronto.

She says there are also 397 new cases in Peel Region, 254 in York Region, 129 in Ottawa, 123 in Durham Region and 122 in Hamilton.

More than 53,400 tests were completed since Thursday’s update.

There are 913 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario.

Ontario reports that 82,996 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since the last daily update.

A total of 1,838,592 vaccines have been given in the province so far.

Read more: Ontario reports more than 2,100 new COVID-19 cases, 12 deaths

Ontario says hair salons and outdoor fitness classes can reopen with restrictions in regions that are under lockdown.

The province says personal care services, including hair and nail salons, can open with capacity limits as of April 12 in regions in the strictest “grey” lockdown category of Ontario’s pandemic framework.

Story continues below advertisement

The government will also allow gyms to offer outdoor fitness classes, training and personal training as of Monday.

Ontario also says it will impose stricter restrictions on two regions as of Monday due to rising case counts.

Hamilton will move into the “grey” lockdown zone and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit will move to the second-strictest red control category.

Elgin and Oxford

One death and 10 new coronavirus cases were reported Friday by officials with Southwestern Public Health.

The death, which health unit officials say involved a man in his 60s from Oxford County and was not linked to a seniors’ facility, is the region’s 68th death and is the first to be reported in more than a month. The previous death was reported on Feb. 20.

Story continues below advertisement

With the update, it leaves the region’s pandemic case tally at 2,741, of which 2,597 have resolved, an increase of 13 from the day before. Health officials reported eight new cases and six resolved cases on Thursday.

As of Friday, 76 cases are listed as active in Elgin-Oxford. Twenty-six are located in Woodstock, while 15 are in St. Thomas and nine in Central Elgin. At least two people are in hospital, the health unit says.

The number of screened variant positive cases in the region stands at 57 as of Friday, seven more than the day before and 29 more than last Friday. At least 20 cases are still active.

Five screened cases have since been confirmed through genomic sequencing to involve the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K.

The other 52 have not been sequenced, but are presumed to involve the same variant, the health unit says.

The region remains in the orange-restrict level of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework.

Click to play video: 'Health minister admits Canada underprepared for pandemic following AG report' Health minister admits Canada underprepared for pandemic following AG report
Health minister admits Canada underprepared for pandemic following AG report – Mar 25, 2021

At least 7,618 residents in Elgin-Oxford have seen at least one vaccine dose in the health unit says, while 3,921 have seen both doses.

Story continues below advertisement

Health officials said this week that at least three pharmacies in Elgin-Oxford would begin carrying the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming weeks as part of the province’s expanded pharmacy pilot project.

Details remain elusive as to which pharmacies will see the vaccine.

Eligible residents are asked to visit covidvaccinelm.ca or call 226-289-3560 (9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.) to book an appointment.

Further information on the local vaccination effort can be found on the health unit’s website.

Read more: Support for Ford government steady despite criticism of COVID-19 pandemic handling, poll shows

No new school cases have been reported in the region, according to the Thames Valley District and London District Catholic school boards.

At least 13 cases are active at schools in the region.

Five are located at St. Patrick’s Catholic Elementary School in Woodstock, while one each is active at Arthur Voaden Secondary School, College Avenue Secondary School, Davenport Public School, Harrisfield Public School, Huron Park Secondary School, Ingersoll District Collegiate Institute, South Dorchester Public School, and Southside Public School.

Meantime, no new institutional outbreaks have been declared and there are none currently active, according to the health unit.

Story continues below advertisement

The health unit says a total of 577 cases have been reported in Woodstock during the pandemic, while 455 have been in Aylmer, 450 in St. Thomas and 344 in Tillsonburg.

Elsewhere, 207 cases have been in Norwich, 163 in Bayham, 127 in Ingersoll, 115 in East Zorra-Tavistock, 60 in Central Elgin, 57 in Zorra, 56 in Blandford-Blenheim, 51 in South-West Oxford, 25 in Southwold, 24 in Dutton/Dunwich, 20 in West Elgin and nine in Malahide.

The region’s test positivity rate stood at 1.6 per cent as of the week of March 14, up from 1.2 per cent the previous week, health unit figures show.

Huron and Perth

Five new coronavirus cases have been reported in the region, officials with Huron Perth Public Health reported on Friday.

The region’s pandemic case tally stands at 1,407, of which 1,342 have resolved, an increase of one from the day before. At least 50 deaths have been reported, most recently on March 1.

Fifteen cases are active in Huron-Perth, with seven in Stratford, three in South Huron, two each in Central Huron and Perth South, and one in St. Marys. None are currently in hospital.

The number of screened variant positive cases in the region stands at six as of Friday, unchanged from the day before. Two are still active. A specific variant has not been identified in any of the six cases.

Story continues below advertisement

The region remains in the yellow-protect level of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework. It recorded no new cases on Thursday.

Read more: Increased screen time leading to increased eye issues in kids: optometrists

Huron Perth Public Health says in addition to Indigenous adults and certain faith leaders, people over the age of 70, born 1951 or earlier, are now eligible to receive a vaccine in the region.

Those looking to book a vaccination appointment are asked to do so via the health unit’s booking website or by calling 1-833-753-2098.

More information on the local vaccination campaign and eligibility can be found on the HPPH website.

“HPPH has been able to book many of our callers for an appointment in under a week,” said Dr. Miriam Klassen, the region’s medical officer of health, in a statement. “There continue to be many available appointment times.”

HPPH says it has administered at least 14,497 vaccine doses since March 24, the most recent figures available.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 concern in schools: what parents need to know heading into spring break' COVID-19 concern in schools: what parents need to know heading into spring break
COVID-19 concern in schools: what parents need to know heading into spring break – Mar 26, 2021

No new school cases have been reported in the region.

Story continues below advertisement

Two are active — one at Romeo Public School and one at St. Michael Catholic Secondary School, both in Stratford.

No new outbreaks have been declared and none are currently active, the health unit says.

At least 558 cases have been reported in Perth County, with 348 in North Perth and 138 in Perth East, while at least 462 been reported in Huron County, with 104 in South Huron and 101 in Huron East.

Stratford has reported at least 354 in total, while St. Marys has seen 33.

The region’s test positivity rate stood at 0.5 per cent as of the week of March 14, down from 0.8 the week before.

Sarnia and Lambton

Twenty-nine new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Lambton County, officials with Lambton Public Health reported on Friday.

It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 2,721, of which 2,456 have resolved, an increase of 34 from the day before. At least 48 deaths have been reported during the pandemic, most recently on Thursday.

As of Friday, 217 cases are active in the county, with at least seven people listed in the care of Bluewater Health — a decrease of one from the day before.

Story continues below advertisement

At least 74 screened variant positive cases have been reported in Lambton, two more than the day before. All remain under investigation to determine which specific variant is involved.

The region remains in grey-lockdown of the province’s COVID-19 response framework where it will remain next week.

Read more: Outdoor fitness in Ontario lockdown regions allowed Monday, personal care services April 12

The local vaccination campaign continues and has administered at least 16,454 doses as of March 23, the most recent figures available.

Of those, 14,910 have seen just first doses while 1,544 have been fully vaccinated.

In an update earlier this week, the health unit said all first and second doses to long-term care, high-risk retirement and elder care homes had finished.

Initial doses to long-term care and retirement home staff, essential caregivers, medical first responders, those 90 and older and their in-home caregivers was almost complete.

Vaccines continue to be administered to health-care workers, adult recipients of chronic home health care, and those 75 and older (or who are turning 75 this year) along with one in-home caregiver who resides in the same home.

Clinics to vaccinate Indigenous adults continue to be held in all three local First Nations communities including Aamjiwnaang, Kettle and Stony Point, and Walpole Island.

Story continues below advertisement

Those eligible to book a vaccine appointment are asked to visit the health unit’s website or call 519-383-8331.

On Tuesday it was announced that the health unit was launching its own pilot project to administer the Moderna vaccine to residents with high-risk chronic health conditions through four local primary care practice groups.

The groups are Central Lambton Family Health Team, Twin Bridges Nurse Practitioner Clinic, Rapids Family Health Team, and North Lambton Community Health Centre.

More primary care groups will be able to join the pilot, which is not related to the one being run by the province at pharmacies, as supply of the vaccine becomes more stable and the AstraZeneca vaccine becomes more widely available.

More information on the local vaccine rollout can be found on the health unit’s website.

Click to play video: 'Fact or Fiction: Will cleaning your air ducts curb COVID-19 spread?' Fact or Fiction: Will cleaning your air ducts curb COVID-19 spread?
Fact or Fiction: Will cleaning your air ducts curb COVID-19 spread? – Mar 25, 2021

At least two new school cases were reported in Lambton, with one at Lambton Centennial Public School and one at London Road School, the Lambton-Kent District School Board said.

Story continues below advertisement

Dozens of cases remain active at schools in Lambton County. Figures can be found on the websites of Lambton Kent District School Board and the St. Clair Catholic District School Board.

One school outbreak was declared over on Thursday.

The outbreak had been declared active on March 10 at Brooke Central Public School and was linked to at least seven cases there, the health unit says.

Outbreak declarations remain active at the following schools:

  • Confederation Central Public School (five cases)
  • Holy Trinity Catholic School (three cases)
  • King George Public School (two cases)
  • North Lambton Secondary School (13 cases)
  • Northern High School (two cases)
  • St. Patrick’s Catholic High School (two cases).

Read more: Quebec health minister says daily increase in COVID-19 cases was ‘expected’

One institutional outbreak has been resolved, while two workplace outbreaks have been declared active.

The resolved outbreak had been declared on March 11 at Vision Nursing Home and was linked to at least one staff case.

The two new workplace outbreaks, meantime, are linked to three and four cases, respectively.

Elsewhere, six seniors’ facility outbreaks remain active in Lambton, declared on:

Story continues below advertisement
  • March 23 at Rosewood Retirement Village (one resident case)
  • March 20 at Fairwinds Lodge in Sarnia (one staff case)
  • March 19 at Afton Park Place in Sarnia (one resident case, two staff cases)
  • March 18 at Marshall Gowland Manor in Sarnia (one staff case)
  • March 16 at Sumac Lodge in Sarnia (one staff case)
  • March 11 at Trillium Villa in Sarnia (three staff cases)

At least 15 outbreaks in total are active in Lambton as of Friday, the health unit says, including those at schools, seniors’ facilities and workplaces.

The health unit says the county’s test positivity rate was 3.7 per cent the week of March 14, up from 3.3 a week earlier.

— With files from Sawyer Bogdan and The Canadian Press

Sponsored content