For the first time since Jan. 15, the London and Middlesex region is seeing a triple-digit number of new COVID-19 cases in its daily update.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) reported 122 new cases on Friday. The region’s total case count now sits at 7,302.
MLHU also reported 41 recoveries on Friday, increasing the total number of recoveries to 6,465.
No new deaths were reported. At least 188 deaths have been attributed to the pandemic, most recently on Wednesday involving a man in his 80s not associated with a seniors’ facility.
The health unit also reported that 22 additional local cases had screened variant positive.
At least 649 cases were listed as active, according to the health unit.
The region’s seven-day rolling case average stands at 65.14 as of Thursday and roughly 3.2 per cent of tests were coming back positive as of the week of March 21.
Of the 122 cases reported Friday, 53 cases involved people aged 19 or under. People in their 20s accounted for 36 new cases. The two age groups combined make up roughly 42 per cent of the region’s total cases.
The province’s newly-announced shutdown, set to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, will bring restrictions similar to those under the revised gray-lockdown level.
Some main differences include outdoor events and gatherings being limited to five people, outdoor dining being barred, and all personal care services, cinemas, and performing arts facilities being closed, with no exceptions.
Local health officials have urged residents to refrain from gathering indoors during the holiday long weekend.
At least 228 cases in the region have screened positive for one or more spike gene mutations consistent with a variant of concern, an increase of 22 from the day before.
Eight screened positive cases have since been confirmed through genomic sequencing to involve the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K. Many other cases are currently undergoing sequencing.
During Thursday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, said variants accounted for nearly 50 per cent of the local caseload, up from 10 to 20 per cent less than a month ago.
Health unit data shows that roughly 62 per cent of the 228 cases that have screened positive for a spike gene mutation linked to variants have involved people under the age of 30.
- According to Public Health Ontario, the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant has been found to have only the N501Y spike gene mutation, while variants B.1.351 and P.1, first detected in South Africa and Brazil respectively, have been associated with spike gene mutations N501Y, K417N, and E484K.
- As a result, the province is now presuming that any cases that screen positive for just the N501Y mutation involve the B.1.1.7 variant and are not sending them for further genomic sequencing. It’s unclear whether MLHU plans to add these presumed cases to the ‘confirmed’ tally in the future, despite not undergoing full genomic sequencing.
Province-wide, variants of concern account for 67 per cent of Ontario coronavirus infections, according to the latest brief published by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
The variants come with a 63 per cent increased risk of hospitalization, 103 per cent increased risk of ICU admission, and a 56 per cent increased risk of death due to COVID-19, the brief says.
At least 6,399 cases have been confirmed in the city of London since the pandemic began, while 278 have been in Middlesex Centre.
Elsewhere, 236 cases have been in Strathroy-Caradoc, 102 in Thames Centre, 60 in Lucan Biddulph, 44 in Southwest Middlesex, 43 in North Middlesex, 14 in Adelaide Metcalfe and two in Newbury.
At least 124 cases have pending location information.
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At least 21 COVID-19 inpatients were in the care of London Health Sciences Centre as of Thursday.
Five or fewer are in critical care or intensive care.
At least 10 staff are currently infected with the virus.
At St. Joseph’s Health Care London, meantime, no COVID-19 patients are listed as being in the care of St. Joseph’s Hospital.
At least six non-outbreak staff cases and three cases linked to outbreaks — one involving a patient and two involving staff — were listed as active within the organization on Thursday. An outbreak is active at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building.
It’s not clear where within SJHCL the other six non-outbreak-related staff cases are located.
At least 385 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 during the pandemic, including 69 in intensive care.
No new institutional outbreaks have been declared and none have resolved.
The most recent outbreak was declared late Tuesday at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building in area G5.
St. Joseph’s Health Care London reported three outbreak-related cases Thursday involving one patient and two staff members. The Parkwood outbreak is its only active outbreak.
Elsewhere, two other outbreaks remain active, including at Henley Place LTC Residence (Victoria Unit) and Kensington Village (LTCH – first floor).
Outbreaks at seniors’ facilities alone have been linked to at least 787 of the region’s cases and 104 of its deaths.
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.
At least one inmate case was listed active at the jail as of Tuesday, according to provincial data. Similar information was not immediately available for staff cases.
Non-institutional outbreaks are also active at four separate Western University student residences.
Global News does not update school cases on holidays or weekends.
As of Thursday, two school cases were reported at Riverbend Academy in Middlesex Centre, where three cases are now active and where an outbreak was declared earlier this week.
The third case was reported at Ekcoe Central School in Glencoe. The case, which is its only active case, prompted an outbreak declaration at the school, according to the health unit.
Elsewhere, an outbreak is still active at Woodland Heights Public School in London, which has one active case.
At least 15 school cases are currently listed as being active in London-Middlesex. A full list can be found on the MLHU website.
The health unit says at least 250 cases have been confirmed during the pandemic at elementary and secondary schools in the region, while 30 have been confirmed at child care/early years settings.
Three cases were listed as active on Thursday at child care/early years settings.
One is associated with Little Acorns Early Childhood Learning Centre – London Bridge, one is associated with London Children’s Connection – Mountsfield Before and After School, and one is linked to Rowntree Park Early Childhood Learning Centre.
In the post-secondary world, another student residence outbreak has been declared at Western University, this time involving Medway-Sydenham Hall.
The outbreak, declared late Wednesday, is the fifth to be declared at a Western residence during the month of March, and is the fourth to be declared in about a week.
Elsewhere, outbreaks are active at Elgin Hall (declared March 30), Ontario Hall (declared March 25), and Saugeen-Maitland Hall (declared March 26).
According to local health officials, the Elgin Hall outbreak has been tied to at least eight cases, the Medway-Sydenham Hall outbreak is linked to at least five cases, the Ontario Hall outbreak is linked to at least 11 cases, and the Saugeen-Maitland Hall outbreak is linked to at least 15 cases.
In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, Western brass announced Thursday that the majority of in-person classes and final exams would be moved online starting April 5.
In addition, the university is also encouraging students living in residence to move out early if possible, saying prorated refunds will be offered to those who move out on April 11 or earlier.
For those unable to move out early, Western will continue to provide housing until the completion of exams and housing staff will be communicating further details to students, the university says.
During Thursday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, noted that while students aren’t a major driver of the local case count, they are “important contributors” when it comes to local variant-related figures.
Mackie says the vast majority of Western-linked cases are associated with variants, as are at least three of the four student residence outbreaks.
“You’re seeing variants of concern and outbreaks of around a dozen people in several different settings of Western,” he said. “That means the variants have been spreading for some time, and that means that people have been gathering in unsafe ways for some time, in order to see that much activity across the community so quickly.”
Variants, he said, have been found to spread more easily in younger people, and they are more dangerous, being “in the range of 50 to 60 per cent more likely to put a young person into the intensive care unit than the previous variants.”
Though the health unit hadn’t seen a lot of spread from the student community into the general community, and removing the Western factor “should make some difference,” it won’t be “the silver bullet” in terms of calming local case rates, he said.
In addition, the health unit was also monitoring at least six community outbreaks associated with Western “in one way or another.” In all, students represent roughly 15 to 20 per cent of the region’s recent caseload, he said.
At least 13 staff and faculty at Western have also tested positive.
Vaccinations and testing
Four pharmacies in London-Middlesex will soon begin offering doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged 55 and older as part of the province’s expanding pilot project.
Two of the participating pharmacies are in London, located at the west London Costco and the Shoppers Drug Mart at 603 Fanshawe Park Rd. W.
The other two are both located in Ingersoll, Ont., at Remedy’s Rx and at Pharmasave.
It’s unclear, however, when the pharmacies will begin receiving the vaccine doses, how much vaccine will arrive, or when the administration of doses will begin.
The Ontario government has indicated that some pharmacies in the province will start doling out shots as early as Saturday, but it’s unclear if the local pharmacies will be among them.
The four locations are allowing eligible residents to register ahead of time.
A full list of participating pharmacies can be found on the province’s website.
During Thursday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie praised the announcement, and said that the next route for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine locally over the next week or two would be through certain family practices.
“What we’ve done is we’ve asked the primary care community to come together and create hubs where a number of family doctors will be able to gather together and offer vaccines to their patients,” Mackie said.
“The hub model is necessary because of the logistics of the vaccine. We need to have enough of a critical mass in order to justify setting up a vaccine clinic. By bringing a number of practises together, we think we can do that.”
Mackie described the plan as a pilot, and said participating local practices, numbering at least six or seven, would be announced in the near future.
Vaccinations continue to be handed out at the city’s three mass vaccination clinics.
Mackie says the region is still vaccinating roughly 2,000 to 2,200 people every day, still below the region’s maximum capacity, as a result of supply limitations.
Roughly 78,380 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered locally as of March 28, the most recent figures available
“We’re seeing the number of vaccines becoming available in our community start to increase,” he said. “The projections for Pfizer are pretty stable, but our Moderna projections are starting to go up in the next couple of weeks. We will start to have more supply on hand, not the doubling that we currently have capacity for, but every bit helps.”
On Wednesday, the health unit announced that vaccine eligibility had been expanded to more priority groups, including adults aged 16 and older with highest-risk health conditions, and residents, primary essential caregivers, and staff of high-risk congregate living settings.
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 to book an appointment. Online appointments are encouraged due to the high call volume. New appointments are added daily around 7 p.m., the health unit says
The region’s two main assessment centres, meantime, located at Carling Heights and Oakridge Arena, remain open and operating by appointment.
Both will be open for the holiday long weekend, according to the Thames Valley Family Health Team, who runs the centres alongside LHSC and MLHU.
Carling will be open on Good Friday and Easter Monday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Oakridge, which doesn’t open on Saturday or Sunday, will operate on Good Friday and Easter Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Telephone booking will be available on Friday at the Carling assessment centre only, but will be available for both centres on Monday, via 519-685-8500 ext. 75503.
According to the health unit, roughly 3.2 per cent of tests were coming back positive as of the week of March 21, up from 1.6 the previous week, and 1.2 the week before that.
Ontario did not provide a COVID-19 update Friday due to the holiday.
On Thursday, the province reported 2,557 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the provincial total to 352,460.
The death toll in the province has risen to 7,389 as 23 more deaths were recorded.
Meanwhile, 324,196 Ontario residents were reported to have recovered from COVID-19, which is about 92 per cent of known cases. Resolved cases increased by 1,814 from the previous day.
Active cases in Ontario now stand at 20,875 — up from the previous day when it was at 20,155, and up from March 25 when it was at 16,081. At the peak of the coronavirus surge in January, active cases hit above 30,000.
Ontario says 84,060 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Wednesday’s update.
Elgin and Oxford
Southwestern Public Health does not report COVID-19 updates on holidays or weekends.
As of Thursday, the region’s pandemic case tally stood at 2,835, of which 2,676 have resolved. At least 90 deaths have been reported, most recently on Monday.
At least 90 cases are still active in the region, with 21 reported in Woodstock and 20 in St. Thomas.
The number of cases that have screened variant positive stands at 75. At least 17 cases are listed as active.
Five of the 75 cases have undergone further genomic sequencing and have been confirmed to involve the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K.
An additional 68 cases are presumed by the province to involve the same variant as they screened positive for only one spike gene mutation — N501Y.
- According to Public Health Ontario, the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant has been associated with only the N501Y spike gene mutation, while variants B.1.351 and P.1, first detected in South Africa and Brazil respectively, have been associated with spike gene mutations N501Y, K417N, and E484K.
- As a result, the province is now presuming that any cases that screen positive for just the N501Y mutation involve the B.1.1.7 variant and are not sending them for further genomic sequencing.
One case, still active, has screened positive for the E484K spike gene mutation, while another case, since resolved, screened positive for both E484K and N501Y. Genomic sequencing is ongoing to determine the specific variant involved in the two cases.
The health unit says roughly 7,618 residents in the region have seen at least one dose, while 3,921 have been fully immunized as of March 20, the most recent figures available.
Vaccine eligibility expanded this week to include adults 16 and older with certain health conditions deemed by the province to be highest risk.
More information can be found on the health unit website.
At least five new school cases have been reported in the Elgin-Oxford region, with four in Woodstock alone.
Two cases were reported at Southside Public School, while one case each was reported at College Avenue Secondary School, Forest Park Public School, and Roch Carrier French Immersion Public School, the Thames Valley District School Board reported late Wednesday.
The school board says the schools will remain open.
The only closed school under the TVDSB is located in Woodstock. School board officials announced late Tuesday that the school would close temporarily, with all students moving to full remote learning “due to significant exposure and a high number of students and staff required to quarantine.”
Meanwhile, no new institutional outbreaks have been declared and none are currently active.
The health unit says a total of 599 cases have been reported in Woodstock during the pandemic, while 466 have been in St. Thomas, 465 in Aylmer, and 350 in Tillsonburg.
Elsewhere, 207 cases have been in Norwich, 164 in Bayham, 137 in Ingersoll, 117 in East Zorra-Tavistock, 66 in Central Elgin, 60 in Blandford-Blenheim, 58 in Zorra, 55 in South-West Oxford, 27 in Dutton/Dunwich, 25 in Southwold, 24 in West Elgin and 14 in Malahide.
The region’s test positivity rate stood at 2.0 per cent as of the week of March 21, up from 1.6 the week before and 1.2 the week before that.
Huron and Perth
Huron Perth Public Health does not report COVID-19 updates on holidays or Sundays.
As of Thursday, the region’s pandemic case tally stood at 1,422, of which 1,357 have resolved. At least 50 deaths have been reported, most recently on March 1.
Fifteen cases were active in the region as of Thursday, with no hospitalizations reported.
The number of screened variant positive cases stands at 13.
Details on what spike gene mutations were detected during the screening process were not immediately available. No positively screened cases have undergone full genomic sequencing yet to determine a specific variant.
The health unit says at least 18,124 doses have been administered in Huron-Perth as of March 29, the most recent figures available. The figure includes both first and second doses.
Vaccine eligibility expanded last week, as it has in other areas, to include adults aged 70 and older, and those who are 69 but who are turning 70 this year, Indigenous persons 16 and older and certain faith leaders.
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.
Meantime, no new school cases have been reported. The region has one active school case, located at St. Mary’s Catholic Elementary School in Goderich and reported on Wednesday.
Two other active cases, located at Romeo Public School and one at St. Michael Catholic Secondary School, both in Stratford, have both resolved.
No new outbreaks have been declared either, and one is active, linked to two cases.
The outbreak was declared on Saturday at Ritz Lutheran Villa, a long-term care home in West Perth.
At least 567 cases have been reported in Perth County, with 351 in North Perth and 138 in Perth East, while at least 464 have been reported in Huron County, with 104 in South Huron and 101 in Huron East.
Stratford has reported at least 358 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 21, up slightly from the revised rate of 0.4 per cent from a week earlier.
Sarnia and Lambton
Lambton Public Health reported 19 new COVID-19 cases along with 21 new recoveries on Friday.
The region’s pandemic case tally stands at 2,878, of which 2,652 have resolved. At least 50 deaths have been reported from COVID-19, most recently on Tuesday.
At least 176 cases are active in the region, with seven listed as being in the care of Bluewater Health.
The information below was last updated Thursday.
At least 133 have screened variant positive. It’s unclear what spike gene mutation(s) have been detected, which may provide insight into what variant it may be.
None of the screened cases have finished undergoing full genomic sequencing yet to confirm a particular coronavirus variant.
At least 23,042 vaccine doses have been administered in Lambton County as of Wednesday, according to an update from the health unit.
The health unit opened up eligibility to people aged 70 to 74 this week. One in-home caregiver who resides in the same household and one in-home caregiver of an adult seeing chronic home care are also eligible.
Pre-registration has also opened up to some groups identified under Phase 2 of the province’s three-phase vaccination rollout. Those who pre-register will see an email invite to schedule an appointment via the province’s booking system.
Those eligible to book a vaccine appointment are asked to visit the health unit’s online vaccine page or call 519-383-8331.
Local health officials said Wednesday that Sarnia was working with the health unit to built another mass vaccine clinic at Clearwater Arena this week.
“Dependent on vaccine supply, this additional site will serve to increase capacity for vaccine distribution.”
More information on the local vaccine rollout can be found on the health unit’s website.
At least three new school cases have been reported in Lambton County.
One each was reported at Brooke Central Public School, High Park Public School, and North Lambton Secondary School, the Lambton-Kent District School Board said.
Elsewhere, three school outbreaks remain active, located at LKDSB Virtual Learning Elementary School – Petrolia (two cases), North Lambton Secondary School (13 cases) and St. Patrick’s Catholic High School (two cases).
A total of five seniors’ facility outbreaks remain active in the region, declared on:
- March 31 at Vision Nursing Home in Sarnia (one staff case)
- March 23 at Rosewood Retirement Village in Sarnia (18 resident, two staff cases)
- March 20 at Fairwinds Lodge in Sarnia (one staff case)
- March 19 at Afton Park Place in Sarnia (two resident cases, two staff cases)
- March 11 at Trillium Villa in Sarnia (three staff cases)
Four outbreaks are also active at unnamed workplaces.
The names and locations of the workplaces have not been made public.
The health unit says the county’s test positivity rate was 3.3 per cent as of the week of March 21, down from 3.7 the week before.
— With files from Matthew Trevithick, Gabby Rodrigues and The Canadian Press