Seventy-four new COVID-19 cases were reported in London-Middlesex on Tuesday, marking the third day in a row that the region has recorded fewer than 100 cases — one of only six this month.
It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 9,381, of which 8,122 have resolved, an increase of 119 from the day before. At least 195 deaths have been reported, most recently on Monday. At least six deaths have been recorded this month.
At least 1,064 cases are currently active in the region.
April has been the second-worst month for cases in London-Middlesex during the pandemic with at least 2,197, behind January with 2,332. A record 176 cases were reported on April 13.
As of Tuesday, the region’s rolling seven-day case average stands at 114, down from 125 the seven days previous. During the same seven-day period last month, the average was around 21.
At least 7.7 per cent of tests in London and Middlesex were coming back positive as of the week of April 4, the most recent data released by MLHU.
According to data from the non-profit group ICES, the two postal codes with the highest positivity rates were N6A (31.5 per cent) and N6M (11 per cent). Updated figures are expected this week.
Of the 74 new cases Tuesday, 71 are from London while two are from Middlesex County. One case is pending location data.
As has been the case in recent weeks, those infected skew younger, with nearly half — 35 — involving people under the age of 30.
At least 17 cases involve people 19 and younger; 18 are in their 20s; 11 are in their 30s; eight are in their 40s; 13 are in their 50s; five are in their 70s; one is in their 70s; and one is 80 or older.
Exposure source data is pending or undetermined for 39 of the cases, but at least 22 are listed as being due to close contact, while 11 have no known link, and two are outbreak-related.
The number of variant cases in London-Middlesex stands at 1,169, an increase of 101 from the previous day.
At least 1,167 cases involve the B.1.1.7 variant that was first detected in the U.K. At least two cases have been confirmed to be the P.1 variant, first found in Brazil. The 101 new cases are all B.1.1.7 cases.
It should be noted that the health unit’s overall variant tally now includes cases that are presumed to be the B.1.1.7 variant as well as cases that underwent genomic analysis and were confirmed to be a variant.
A note on the process of confirming and presuming variant cases:
- Confirming a variant is a multi-step process. Positive COVID-19 cases undergo initial screening for spike protein mutations common to variants (N501Y, E484K, and K417N), and if found to have one or more, undergo further genomic analysis to determine the specific variant involved (B.1.1.7, B.1.351, or P.1) — a process that can take up to two weeks.
- Since last month, however, the province has stopped conducting genomic analysis on cases that screen positive for just the N501Y mutation. Now, those cases are presumed to involve the B.1.1.7 variant, as that variant has only been associated with the N501Y mutation.
- Cases that screen positive for either the E484K or K417N mutations are still being sent for genomic analysis as they have been associated with the B.1.351 and P.1 variants, first detected in South Africa and Brazil, respectively.
The number of cases that have screened positive for a variant-associated spike protein mutation, but which have not yet undergone genomic analysis, stands at 202, five more than the day before. (This number will fluctuate up and down as cases are analyzed and moved to the main variant tally.)
Of those 202 cases, at least 72 have been found to have the E484K spike protein mutation and are undergoing genomic analysis. (Of those 72, at least 60 have the N501Y mutation as well.)
The remaining 130 cases initially screened positive for just N501Y, but have not had the E484K mutation ruled out yet. It’s unclear if or when these cases may be added to the main variant tally.
During Monday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, struck a more positive tone about the lower recent case numbers, but stressed the importance of following the restrictions.
“The numbers really have been spiking almost straight up for weeks, and over the last few days, you’ve seen that spike start to reduce,” he said.
Asked why people under the age of 30 were accounting for so many cases with post-secondary students done their semester and returning home, Mackie said it would take time for that to be reflected in the numbers.
“We’re certainly seeing less there than we were a week or two ago, and part of that is people moving out of the community,” he said. The decrease may be the result of behavioural changes because of outbreaks and calls for younger people to stay home, he said.
“That said, you know, we’re probably diagnosing cases from activity that happened days or weeks ago, so we will see those numbers continue on for some time.”
It’s still not clear whether the province will designate the N6A postal code, or any other area of London, a COVID-19 hot spot, opening it up to more resources, such as vaccine doses, and allowing for younger groups to get the shot.
The N6A postal code covers part of Western University’s campus, off-campus student neighbourhoods and about half of Old North, as well as much of the downtown core and Richmond Row.
Though the province hasn’t designated it as such, statistically speaking it is a definite hot spot. According to the most recent data from the non-profit health research firm ICES, at least 31.5 per cent of cases there were coming back positive as of April 10, the most of any postal code in the province.
Last week, London Mayor Ed Holder said the province had “heard very clearly” that London should be recognized as a hot spot.
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At least 8,360 cases have been confirmed in the City of London since the pandemic began, while 312 have been in Middlesex Centre.
Elsewhere, 278 cases have been in Strathroy-Caradoc, 120 in Thames Centre, 60 in Lucan Biddulph, 53 in North Middlesex, 52 in Southwest Middlesex, 14 in Adelaide Metcalfe and two in Newbury.
At least 130 cases have pending location information.
At least 86 people with COVID-19 are in the care of London Health Sciences Centre, according to the organization. The figure is current as of 3 p.m. Monday. No newer numbers were available.
At least 38 patients are being cared for in critical/intensive care and at least nine staff are currently positive.
During Monday’s briefing, Dr. Adam Dukelow, LHSC’s chief medical officer, reported that at least 53 of the COVID-19 patients were from London-Middlesex, while the remaining 33 were from out of region, largely from the GTA.
Of those in intensive care at the time, at least 30 were on ventilators and at least 23 were from out of region.
The organization, he said, was caring for the largest number of COVID-19 patients it has seen at one time since the pandemic began.
As of early Monday afternoon, at least 675 medical, surgical, and ICU patients were in LSHC’s care at both University and Victoria hospitals, meaning COVID-19 patients made up roughly 12.75 per cent of that total.
LHSC, Dukelow said, anticipates receiving more COVID-19 patients locally and from other centres in the province. Likely two to five patients were expected from the GTA for the duration of the week, on a daily basis, along with local patients, he said.
LHSC recently opened at least 18 additional ICU beds to meet capacity, including eight at Victoria Hospital in what is normally a medical day unit, and ten at University Hospital in what is normally a day surgery prep area, according to the organization.
Factoring in those beds, the LHSC’s critical care capacity was sitting around 70 per cent at both University and Victoria hospitals as of early Monday afternoon.
Surgical capacity at LHSC was expected to be between 50 and 60 per cent of normal levels this week as the organization opens up more medical beds for COVID-19 patients, and to free up staff to help open new ICU beds, he said.
No COVID-19 patients were reported to be in the care of St. Joseph’s Hospital, however, at least four cases are active within St. Joseph’s Health Care London.
Two cases, one patient and one staff, are linked to an ongoing outbreak at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building. Two other active staff cases are not outbreak-related.
At least 466 people in London-Middlesex have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 during the pandemic, including 81 in intensive care, the health unit says.
No new institutional outbreaks have been declared or resolved, but an outbreak at London’s jail has grown significantly, provincial data shows.
At least 28 inmate cases were listed as active there as of Friday, the highest number of active inmate cases seen so far, according to new data posted by the Ontario government late Monday.
At least four staff cases were listed as active at the jail as of early last week.
The outbreak has been linked to at least 64 inmate and 34 staff cases since it was declared on Jan. 18.
Prior to its declaration, EMDC had only seen two inmate cases.
980 CPFL has reached out to the Ministry of the Solicitor General for comment.
Elsewhere, one outbreak is currently active at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building in its G5 area.
St. Joseph’s Health Care London says at least two cases, one patient and one staff, are active as a result of the outbreak at Parkwood.
Meanwhile, no outbreaks are currently active at any local long-term care or retirement home, the health unit says.
An outbreak also remains at Cargill’s London facility. It’s been linked to at least 92 cases as of late last week.
Details on the Western University outbreaks can be found below.
While schools across Ontario are engaged in online learning, at least two new cases have been reported by local schools.
One case is associated with Arthur Stringer Public School and Riverside Public School, the Thames Valley District School Board reported late Monday. They’re among 20 cases active involving local schools. A full list can be found on the MLHU website.
Meanwhile, outbreaks remain active at:
- East Carling Public School
- École élémentaire catholique Frère André
- Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School
- Providence Reformed Collegiate
- St. Francis School
- St. Anne’s Catholic School
At least 342 cases associated with elementary and secondary schools have been reported in London-Middlesex during the pandemic, according to the health unit.
At least 48 cases have been reported involving child care and early years settings.
Eight are active associated with four facilities.
Five are linked to Faith Day Nursery, where an outbreak has been active since April 13.
Elsewhere, one case each has been linked with Blossoms Early Childhood Education – East; London French Day Care Centre Inc.; and Stoneybrook Early Childhood Learning Centre – London Bridge.
Meanwhile, an outbreak declaration remains active at Kidorable Child Care Centre from April 8, however, no cases are currently active there.
In post-secondary, outbreaks remain active in eight student residences linked to Western University, according to the health unit.
The outbreaks together (including the King’s Common outbreak which was declared over on Sunday) have been linked to more than 190 cases.
Updated case figures for the active outbreaks are as follows:
- London Hall – 6
- Ontario Hall – 8
- Essex Hall – 12
- Elgin Hall – 15
- Delaware Hall -19 + 1 from out of area who did not get tested
- Perth Hall – 28
- Medway-Sydenham Hall – 33
- Saugeen-Maitland Hall – 54 + 3 probable cases who have not yet been tested.
“All of the Western outbreaks have been identified with variants of concern, all with the (N501Y spike protein mutation) and most of them negative for the E484K mutation,” Mackie said.
Vaccinations and Testing
The local vaccination campaign continues on, with more than 125,000 doses administered so far.
People aged 60 and older continue to be eligible to receive a shot at one of the region’s three operating mass vaccination clinics.
Eligible residents are asked to visit the local vaccine booking website or call 226-289-3560 to book an appointment at one of the region’s three mass vaccination clinics. Online appointments are encouraged due to the high call volume.
More information on eligibility can be found on the MLHU’s website.
During Monday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, said at least 80 per cent of people aged 80-plus had received a vaccine, while at least 73 per cent of people aged 75-79 had gotten a shot.
He also noted that though the region was seeing a boost in Pfizer doses this week due to its work vaccinating urban Indigenous populations, a 25 per cent drop (about 3,500 doses) was expected next week.
Mackie said the dip wasn’t expected to impact plans to open eligibility to more groups of people this week, and they weren’t expected to result in the closure of a vaccination clinic, however “if we saw further reductions, it might.”
The Moderna vaccine, he added, saw “minimal contribution” to the local vaccination campaign, and that doses have been “pretty flat at this point,” meaning a major shipment delay to Canada won’t have a major impact either.
According to the health unit, scheduled second doses are expected to come into play more in the month of May, raising concern that fewer first shots may be given should local vaccine supply not be increased to make up the difference, particularly as the province begins prioritizing vaccine to hot spots.
An upside, he said, is that more Pfizer doses are expected to come on board in May and June.
“If the national procurement goes as expected, then the second doses required will be dwarfed by the new incoming doses, and we’ll be able to proceed apace with vaccinating people for first doses.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday a contract with Pfizer for eight million additional doses of its vaccine, with the first four million arriving in May. Two million more doses will come in June and July, respectively, and Pfizer is also moving another 400,000 doses from the third quarter into June.
Outside of the region’s three vaccination clinics, people aged 40 and older are eligible to get the AstraZeneca shot at a participating pharmacy.
A full list of participating pharmacies can be found on the province’s website. Residents are asked to book a spot with the pharmacies themselves.
“My advice to everybody is to seek vaccine wherever and however you can. All of the vaccines are on the scale from very good to excellent. They’re all very safe,” Mackie said, adding people shouldn’t wait to become eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.
“We will not be able to open up to all … Middlesex-London residents over age 16 any time soon. We still have people with high-risk health-care conditions to go through … We still have people who can’t work from home, as another category in Phase 2.”
The region’s two main assessment centres, at Carling Heights and Oakridge Arena, remain open and operating by appointment.
The local test positivity rate stood at 7.7 per cent as of the week of April 4, up from 5.9 the week prior, according to the most recent figures. Updated figures are expected this week.
Ontario reported 3,469 cases of COVID-19 and 22 more deaths linked to the virus on Tuesday.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 1,074 new cases in Toronto, 775 in Peel Region, and 406 in York Region.
Provincial data released last week showed Peel Region — which includes Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon — had the highest COVID-19 positivity rate at 15 per cent, with Toronto coming in second at 11.3 per cent.
The region west of Toronto also had the highest number of weekly new cases per 100,000 residents, the data showed.
One of the public health experts involved in preparing the province’s COVID-19 projections said last fall that the virus is hardest to control in areas such as Brampton where the proportion of essential service workers is higher and households are larger.
Officials in one of Ontario’s top COVID-19 hot spots are moving to temporarily close businesses with recent outbreaks of the virus in an effort to rein in surging case counts they said were fuelled by workplace spread.
Peel Region said Tuesday its public health unit will issue an updated order requiring businesses that have seen five or more linked cases in the past 14 days to shut down for 10 days.
Businesses could be told to close as early as Friday, and those affected will be contacted directly, the region said.
Those deemed essential for the well-being of the community, such as businesses in health care and emergency child care, will be exempt from full closure, it said.
Peel Public Health urged employers ordered to shut down to provide paid sick leave to their staff.
The move comes a day after the Ontario government rejected efforts to bring in paid sick leave for essential workers and shut down non-essential businesses.
The province has faced increasing pressure from health experts and advocates to implement paid sick days and close non-essential workplaces amid a third wave that threatens to overwhelm the health-care system.
The governing Progressive Conservatives shot down Opposition motions on both issues on Monday, and then again on Tuesday.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said inaction by the province has forced Peel’s top doctor to issue orders to protect workers himself.
Elgin and Oxford
One new death and 12 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Elgin-Oxford, officials with Southwestern Public Health said Tuesday.
It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 3,209, of which 2,954 have resolved, an increase of 19 from the previous day.
At least 73 deaths have been reported. The most recent death involved a man in his 70s from St. Thomas, said a spokesperson with the health unit.
At least 182 cases are currently active, including 67 in St. Thomas, 37 in Woodstock, and 25 in Tillsonburg. At least four people are currently in hospital, with one in intensive care.
The number of variant cases identified in the region currently stands at 294, an increase of 24 from the day before.
Of those, at least 270 have been either confirmed through genomic analysis to be, or are presumed to be, the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K. At least 87 are active.
Cases are presumed to be the B.1.1.7 variant if they screen positive for only one specific spike protein mutation, named N501Y. The B.1.1.7 variant has been associated with only this mutation.
The health unit says at least 24 cases have screened positive for the E484K mutation, which has been associated with the B.1.351 and P.1 variants, detected in South Africa and Brazil, respectively, and are still undergoing genomic analysis. Of those, at least 10 are still active.
More than 32,000 residents have received at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine as of April 11, the most recent figures available. New stats are expected later this week.
Eligible residents are asked to visit the area’s vaccine booking site or call 226-289-3560 to book an appointment at one of the region’s two operating mass vaccination clinics. One is open in St. Thomas and one in Woodstock. A third is planned for Tillsonburg.
Eligibility information can be found on the health unit website.
At least 10 pharmacies are also doling out doses of the AstraZeneca shot to people 40 and older as part of a provincially run pilot. Appointments should be made directly with a participating pharmacy.
Local health officials are expected to provide an update this week on the distribution of vaccines in the N5H postal code, which was designated a COVID-19 hot spot two weeks ago. The distinction means it is prioritized for more vaccine doses and health officials are able to immunize younger age groups.
The region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Joyce Lock, said last week that the health unit would be working “intensively” within N5H to get doses to those 50 and older as part of the province’s hot spot plan.
No new school cases were reported by early Tuesday afternoon in the region.
Meanwhile, one outbreak has resolved.
The outbreak had been located at Metcalfe Gardens in St. Thomas and was linked to two cases.
One outbreak remains active, located at Caressant Care Bonnie Place in St. Thomas, tied to three resident and two staff cases.
The health unit says a total of 690 cases have been reported in Woodstock during the pandemic, while 581 have been in St. Thomas, 489 in Aylmer and 386 in Tillsonburg.
Elsewhere, 220 cases have been in Norwich, 176 in Bayham, 151 in Ingersoll, 129 in East Zorra-Tavistock, 77 in Central Elgin, 75 in Blandford-Blenheim, 70 in Zorra, 62 in South-West Oxford, 34 in Dutton/Dunwich, 27 in Southwold, 24 in West Elgin and 17 in Malahide.
The region’s test positivity rate stood at 3.0 per cent as of the week of April 4, up from 2.1 per cent a week earlier. New numbers are expected this week.
Huron and Perth
Three new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Huron and Perth, local health officials reported on Tuesday.
Two are from North Huron while one is from Goderich, the health unit said.
It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 1,531, of which 1,435 have resolved, an increase of eight from the day before. At least 52 deaths have been reported, most recently on April 13.
As of Tuesday, at least 44 cases are currently active in the region, including at least 13 in North Perth, seven in Stratford, and six in West Perth.
One person is currently in hospital, the health unit says.
Meanwhile, the number of variant cases identified in the region stands at 54, 10 more than the day before.
Of those, at least 22 have been confirmed through genomic analysis to be, or are presumed to be, the B.1.1.7 variant.
The rest remain under investigation. Details remain limited, including what spike protein mutations those remaining cases screened positive for. (Those positive for only the N501Y mutation would be presumed to involve the B.1.1.7 variant.)
“We continue to see virus transmission due to people getting together with others from outside their household and not wearing masks or physically distancing while doing so,” health officials said in an update Monday.
“It is very important to continue following public health and workplace safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Variants, which predominate right now, spread much more easily.”
At least 34,104 vaccine doses have been administered in the region as of April 18. The tally includes first and second doses.
The health unit is reporting a 99.8 per cent coverage rate for those aged 80 and older in having had at least one shot. For those 75-79, the tally is 94.6 per cent, and for those 70-74, it’s 100 per cent.
For people aged 65-69, who have been eligible for less time and for whom many appointments are still to come, the tally is 14.9.
“There has been no change to vaccine eligibility in Huron Perth. We continue to work through adults aged 65 and older, highest risk health conditions, and other eligible groups,” officials said in their update.
More information on the local vaccine campaign can be found on the health unit’s website. Those looking to book an appointment are asked to do so via the local booking system or by calling 1-833-753-2098.
People aged 40 and older are also able to receive an Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as part of the province’s ongoing pharmacy immunization program.
Local health units are not directly involved in the pharmacy initiative, and residents are asked to contact the pharmacies directly. A list of local participating pharmacies can be found on the province’s website.
No new institutional outbreaks have been declared and none resolved. Two are currently active, both at unnamed workplaces in the region.
No new school cases have been reported. At least six are currently active in Huron-Perth, with two associated with F.E. Madill Secondary school, and one each at Jeanne Sauvé Catholic Elementary School, Shakespeare Public School (no school exposure), Stratford District Secondary School (no school exposure), and St. Mary’s Catholic Elementary School.
At least 606 cases have been reported in Perth County, with 375 in North Perth and 140 in Perth East, while at least 501 have been reported in Huron County, with 109 in South Huron and 105 in Huron East.
Stratford has reported at least 386 in total, while St. Marys has seen 38.
The region’s test positivity rate stood at 1.5 per cent the week of April 4, up from 0.8 the week earlier. Updated numbers are expected later this week.
Sarnia and Lambton
One death and five new COVID-19 cases were reported in Lambton County on Tuesday, local health officials said.
It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 3,125, of which 2,986 have resolved, an increase of 19 from the day before.
At least 55 deaths have been recorded since the pandemic began. The most recent involved a person in their 70s who died in hospital, according to the health unit.
At least 84 cases are considered active in Lambton. At least seven people were hospitalized at Bluewater Health as of Tuesday. According to the hospital, 38 people have died from COVID-19 while in their care.
At least 281 variant cases have been identified in Lambton, an increase of 13 from the day before.
Of those, at least 227 have been either confirmed through genomic analysis to be, or are presumed to be, the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K., according to the province.
Note on the presumption of B.1.1.7 cases:
- According to Public Health Ontario, the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant has been associated with the N501Y spike protein mutation, while variants B.1.351 and P.1, first detected in South Africa and Brazil, respectively, have been associated with mutations N501Y, E484K and K417N.
- As a result, any specimens screening positive N501Y and negative for E484K are presumed by the province to involve the B.1.1.7 variant and aren’t being sent for further genomic testing.
- Specimens that screen positive for either the E484K or K417N mutations will undergo genomic testing.
The remaining 54 have either screened positive for the E484K mutation and are undergoing genomic analysis, or they have screened positive for N501Y but their E484K status is unknown.
At least 35,443 COVID-19 doses had been administered in Lambton as of early last week, the most recent figures available. An updated tally is expected late Tuesday.
Currently, people aged 60 and older are eligible to receive a shot at a local mass vaccination clinic, along with specified groups outlined in the province’s three-phase rollout.
Eligibility information can be found on the health unit’s website.
Eligible residents are asked to contact the health unit at 519-383-8331, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or by visiting the health unit’s website.
Multiple pharmacies in Lambton are also continuing to offer the AstraZeneca vaccine to those 55 and older as part of the province-run pilot program. Residents are asked to book appointments with the pharmacies directly.
It’s unclear exactly how many new school cases may have been reported in Lambton.
The Lambton-Kent District School Board paused public reporting of new cases during the spring break, and says it won’t report new cases during the remote learning period.
One new case was reported by the St. Clair Catholic District School Board at St. Peter Canisius Catholic School.
One new outbreak has been declared in the region, located in a student residence of Lambton College in Sarnia. The outbreak, declared on Monday, is tied to three resident cases.
Elsewhere, one other outbreak is active at an unspecified workplace and linked to eight cases. The outbreak was declared on April 7.
The health unit says the county’s test positivity rate was 2.8 per cent the week of April 4.
At least 140,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Lambton.
— With files from The Canadian PressView link »