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COVID-19: 100 new cases in London-Middlesex; April 2021 region’s worst month for cases

The London, Ont., skyline, November 2020. Matthew Trevithick/980 CFPL

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April 2021 is now officially the worst month for COVID-19 cases in London and Middlesex, and there’s still just over a week of the month left to go.

It comes after the Middlesex-London Health Unit reported 100 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the region’s pandemic total to 9,608.

Of those, at least 2,424 cases have been confirmed since April 1, more than the 2,332 which were seen during the entire month of January — now the second-worst month for cases.

The health unit also reported Thursday that 144 previous cases had resolved, bringing that tally to 8,380. At least 195 deaths have been reported, most recently on Monday.

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At least 1,033 cases are active in London-Middlesex.

So far, April has seen at least 15 days where daily case counts have been above 100, including one day, April 13, which saw at least 176 cases, the current single-day record. In comparison, January recorded eight triple-digit days.

The surge in cases this month has come as local and provincial health officials have continued to grapple with a devastating third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, driven largely by more contagious variants, which has seen an alarming rise in people ending up in hospitals and ICUs.

As of Tuesday, the region’s rolling seven-day case average stands at 100, down from 134 the seven days previous.

At least 7.1 per cent of tests in London and Middlesex were coming back positive as of the week of April 11, down from 7.7 a week earlier, according to data released by MLHU this week.

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Of the 100 new cases, at least 92 are from London while seven are from Middlesex County. One is pending location data.

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Cases are spread out relatively evenly among age groups under 60, compared to previous days. However, people under 30 still account for roughly 40 per cent of infections.

At least 17 are 19 or younger; 23 are in their 20s; 17 are in their 30s; 16 are in their 40s; 10 are in their 50s; 13 are in their 60s; three are in their 70s; and one is 80 or older.

At least 45 cases have pending or undetermined exposure source data, while 31 are listed as being due to close contact and five to outbreaks. Nineteen have no known link.

Read more: Doug Ford confirms paid sick leave program for workers coming, apologizes for backtracking

Variant cases continue to make up a majority of recent infections. At least 50 per cent of cases seen during the week of April 11 (data has not been finalized) and at least 60 per cent of cases seen the week of April 4 have involved variants.

As of Thursday, the cumulative number of variant cases in London-Middlesex stood at 1,360, an increase of 33 from the day before.

Health unit figures show that all but two have been the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K. The 33 cases reported Thursday were B.1.1.7.

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Two cases have been confirmed to be the P.1 variant, first found in Brazil.

It should be noted that the health unit’s variant tally now includes cases presumed to be the B.1.1.7 variant and cases which have undergone genomic analysis and 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, 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 health unit has a separate tally showing the number of cases which have screened positive for a variant-associated spike protein mutation, but which have not yet been confirmed or presumed to involve a variant.

That tally stands at 217 as of Thursday, an increase of three from the day before. (The tally will fluctuate up and down as cases undergo genomic analysis and are confirmed.)

Of those 217 cases, at least 85 were found to have the E484K mutation, consistent with the B.1.351 and P.1 variants. They are under genomic analysis. (Of those 85, at least 70 were also found to have the N501Y mutation.)

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The remaining 132 cases screened, initially, for just the N501Y mutation, however they have not been ruled out for the E484K mutation, and as a result, have not yet been added to the main variant case tally. It’s unclear if or when these cases may be added.

Read more: COVID-19 variant first detected in India found in Canada. What we know so far

During Thursday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, noted that while case rates recently have been plateauing in contrast to last week, things were not in a place yet where the health unit is comfortable.

“The trajectory is starting to look better, but we absolutely still need to maintain public health precautions and respect the lockdown for the coming weeks if we want to see that progress continue and get life back to normal,” he said.

London Mayor Holder was similarly optimistic, albeit cautiously, about the numbers, but stressed that they were still too high and encouraged people to continue to work together to bring cases down even further.

He also added that, regardless of pandemic fatigue, residents need to treat each other with respect.

“I’ve seen and I’ve heard, too often, many examples of members of the public and folks who are just tired… and cranky… but it’s really starting to manifest itself in ways that are not particularly pleasant,” he said.

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You don’t want somebody yelling at you. And if it’s a clerk or a bus operator or anybody that’s in the service business or in the health professional business, there’s no need to yell. People are doing their very best, and I know they are, and you know they are.”

Read more: Mass cremations begin in India’s capital city as COVID-19 deaths soar

On the topic of the province’s plan to bring in a paid sick-leave program — something it has steadfastly refused to do for months — Dr. Mackie said it was a “great move” and noted the health unit has supported such an idea “for some time.”

“Recognizing that, in some datasets, you see a large proportion of people that are carrying infections, having likely acquired them through essential work at a grocery store or that sort of frontline service work,” he said.

“Certainly if paid sick leave were available, that would be another tool to not just give the verbal message, but also the financial support, for people to take time off when they’re sick so they’re not affecting their colleagues.”

Mayor Holder said he was also glad to see that a paid sick-leave plan would be coming — something he and other big city mayors have been advocating for.

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“We’ll wait with great interest to learn more about what the program might entail and when it will be enacted, but for now, this is a definite positive step and something that once in effect, will assist all municipalities in the battle over COVID,” Holder said.

Read more: Ottawa consulting on stricter border measures, won’t stop flights from India

At least 8,572 cases have been confirmed in the City of London since the pandemic began, while 314 have been in Middlesex Centre.

Elsewhere, 284 cases have been in Strathroy-Caradoc, 122 in Thames Centre, 61 in Lucan Biddulph, 54 in North Middlesex, 53 in Southwest Middlesex, 15 in Adelaide Metcalfe and two in Newbury.

At least 131 cases have pending location information.

Hospitalizations

At least 95 COVID-19 patients were listed as being in the care of London Health Sciences Centre on Thursday, an increase of one from the day before.

The new tally sets another record for the number of COVID-19 patients being treated at LHSC on any given day.

Of those, at least 37 are in critical or intensive care, a decrease of two from a day earlier.

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At least nine LHSC staff are currently positive with COVID-19, unchanged from Wednesday.

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At St. Joseph’s Hospital, no COVID-19 patients were reported, but St. Joseph’s Health Care London (SJHCL) announced Thursday that, in collaboration with LHSC, it would begin ramping down all elective surgeries and procedures, opening additional beds for non-COVID patients who don’t require acute care, and redeploying staff and resources.

St. Joseph’s says the rescheduling of elective, non-urgent and non-emergent procedures will begin on Monday and comes in response to a directive from the province. Urgent and emergent needs will still be addressed, it says.

LHSC has also ramped down its surgical capacity to meet the increased demand from COVID-19 patients, as have hospitals across Ontario.

“Patients whose surgery or procedure is impacted will be contacted directly. Those who are not contacted should attend their appointment as usual. Surgeries and procedures will be rescheduled when capacity in the system improves,” read a statement from SJHCL.

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The move comes as LHSC has been seeing COVID-19 patients transferred in from the GTA, where hospitals and ICUs have been hit hard. LHSC has had to open at least 18 new ICU beds at its University and Victoria hospitals because of the surge.

Earlier this month, Dr. Adam Dukelow, chief medical officer with LHSC, said St. Joseph’s Hospital had opened up additional surge space and was allowing LHSC to transfer some of its less acutely ill patients there.

SJHCL says its critical role throughout the pandemic has been to provide care to patients from LHSC and elsewhere during case surges — patients who no longer need acute level of services or are awaiting long-term care and can’t safely be sent home.

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“For this latest wave of the pandemic, St. Joseph’s has received funding for up to 44 additional beds, which will be made available at Parkwood Institute as the need arises,” read the statement from SJHCL.

“Twenty-seven of these beds already exist at Parkwood Institute Main Building and have been used at various points in the pandemic. More beds will be added and staff will be redeployed from other areas of St.Joseph’s as needed to ensure safe and expert care.”

Read more: Hundreds of COVID-19 ICU patient transfers planned as Ontario braces for ‘horrific’ 2 weeks

No COVID-19 patients were reported to be in the care of St. Joseph’s Hospital on Thursday, but at least four active cases have been reported within SJHCL.

Two cases — one patient and one staff — are linked to an ongoing outbreak at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building. The two other active staff cases are not outbreak-related.

At least 473 people in London-Middlesex have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 during the pandemic, including 82 in intensive care, the health unit says.

Institutional outbreaks

No new institutional outbreaks have been declared.

One outbreak remains active at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building in its G5 area.

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St. Joseph’s Health Care London says at least two cases, one patient and one staff, are active as a result of the outbreak.

The outbreak at London’s Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre remains active.

Declared more than three months ago on Jan. 18, the outbreak has been linked to at least 64 cases among inmates and 34 among staff.

As of Sunday, the most recent data available from the province, 16 inmate cases were still active.

No staff cases were listed as active at the jail as of Wednesday, according to a spokesperson with the Minister of the Solicitor General.

Read more: COVID-19: Ontario emergency orders pave the way for more workers to help hospitals

Elsewhere, a workplace outbreak is also still active at Cargill’s London facility involving dozens of workers.

At least 116 cases have been confirmed as a result of the workplace outbreak, which was first made public about two weeks ago. Due to contact tracing delays, it’s not clear exactly how many secondary cases may have come as a result of the outbreak.

The plant, which employs roughly 900 people, has been given the green light from local health officials to restart production on Friday after being closed due to the outbreak.

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The outbreak is currently the second-largest to be seen in London-Middlesex behind the deadly outbreak that was reported at University Hospital in the fall.

Mackie says more than 200 workplace outbreaks have been declared locally during the pandemic.

Schools

At least four new school cases have been reported in the region, according to the health unit and local school boards.

Two cases have been reported involving Rick Hansen Public School, while one each has been reported involving Stoneybrook Public School and St. Francis School.

They’re among at least eight cases currently active that are associated with local schools. Full lists of active cases can be found on the websites of the Thames Valley District School Board, the London District Catholic School Board, and the health unit.

Outbreaks are also still active involving the following schools, according to the health unit:

  • East Carling Public School
  • École élémentaire catholique Frère André
  • Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School
  • Providence Reformed Collegiate
  • St. Andre Bessette Secondary School
  • St. Anne’s Catholic School
  • St. Francis School

At least 349 cases associated with elementary and secondary schools have been reported in London-Middlesex during the pandemic, according to the health unit.

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An additional 50 have been reported in local child care and early years settings, the health unit says.

On Thursday, six cases associated with five facilities were listed as active by the health unit.

Two active cases are linked to Faith Day Nursery, where an outbreak was declared April 13.

Elsewhere, one case each is linked to Blossoms Childhood Education Centre – West London 1; London Bridge: Piccadilly Place Early Childhood Learning Centre; Stoneybrook Early Childhood Learning Centre – London Bridge; and White Oaks Children’s Centre.

In addition to Faith Day Nursery, an outbreak declaration remains in place for Kidorable Child Care Centre. It was declared on April 8. No cases are listed as being active there.

Read more: #GenX wins social media as 40+ crowd flocks to get AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

In post-secondary, no change has been reported in the ongoing outbreaks at Western University student residences.

Eight remain active, according to the health unit, associated with more than 175 cases.

Active Western residence outbreaks (numbers as of April 19, 2021):

  • 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.

Vaccinations and Testing

Local health officials say roughly 125,387 vaccines have been doled out in London-Middlesex so far, with at least 18,370 administered last week, the highest weekly rate so far at the city’s mass vaccination clinics.

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“That’s the largest total ever because we did get those roughly 5,000 additional vaccines… It was announced to us on Friday, which we were able to immediately absorb and put into clinics,” Mackie said.

Mackie noted that the health unit doesn’t yet have regular data when it comes to immunizations at doctors offices and pharmacies, but notes they are “definitely” contributing to the local vaccination campaign, “particularly now that age has been lowered down to 40 for AstraZeneca.”

We’re seeing a lot of uptake there, and pharmacies mostly sold out for weeks ahead for their vaccine appointments.”

Those getting vaccinated are being encouraged to share the news on their social media feeds to inspire others eligible to book an appointment.

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.

The pharmacy program is being run by the province. Residents are asked to book a spot with the pharmacies themselves.

Outside of the region’s three vaccination clinics, people aged 40 and older are eligible to get the AstraZeneca shot at a participating pharmacy.

Local health officials stress that Londoners should get a vaccine if they’re eligible, and not to wait for eligibility to open up for the Pfizer or Moderna shots.

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Eligibility for the vaccine at the region’s three local mass vaccination clinics expanded on Wednesday to include those 16 and older with certain high-risk and highest-risk health conditions.

Asked why eligibility wasn’t even wider at this point, Mackie said they hoped to open it to more groups as defined in the province’s Phase 2 vaccine rollout plans soon, possibly next week.

“There are three categories of health conditions according to the provincial Phase 2 plan,” Mackie said.

“You’ve got highest-risk, which we’ve been vaccinating for some time. You’ve got high-risk, which we just started… opening appointments to yesterday. And then the at-risk group (which) is a much longer list, probably tens of thousands of people in this area,” he said.

The at-risk category includes everything from pregnancy to diabetes, asthma, liver and heart disease, autoimmune disorders, sickle cell disease and other conditions.

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So we, as you can imagine, need to have the ducks in a row to be able to open to such a large group, and we do hope and anticipate that we’ll be able to do that at some point next week.”

It’s not clear yet whether the health unit will be able to move to all at-risk conditions next week or whether officials will have to break the at-risk category down into subgroups, Mackie said.

“You can imagine it is a very large group of patients and what we don’t want is people all becoming eligible at once and then a majority of them being frustrated that they can’t find an appointment.”

Read more: Canada to see 1st Johnson & Johnson shipments next week, but no more until June

Several area businesses and organizations, including the Labatt and Western University, have proposed to work with public health officials to set up pop-up vaccination clinics.

Mackie said he was encouraged by the proposals, but noted vaccine supply to the London-Middlesex region was still not strong enough to support such a plan right now, calling it a longer-term strategy.

“The reality around moving vaccines quickly into communities is the mass clinic approach is by far the most efficient.

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“We do run mobile sites, we’re doing one or two every day… That always has been part of the campaign to address the issues of vaccinating people who cannot leave their home or the place where they’re receiving vaccine,” he said, referring to congregate settings like seniors’ facilities.

“When we get to the phase of broad public availability, if we still aren’t seeing the uptake numbers that we want, then the outreach model, going to where people are (and) making it more convenient for them, is definitely part of the plan.”

He noted, however, that the health unit has seen excellent uptake at the mass clinics, with more than 80 per cent of people 80 and older and nearly that in those 75 to 79. Younger groups are seeing increasing uptake as well as more people become immunized.

“To break up the vaccine and or staff to try and provide mobile clinics has real opportunity costs and is not the most efficient way to move vaccine.”

Read more: EU preparing legal case against AstraZeneca over cuts to vaccine delivery: sources

There’s still been no word yet whether the province may designate London’s N6A postal code a COVID-19 hot spot, opening it up to more vaccines.

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.

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

At least 7.1 per cent of tests in London and Middlesex were coming back positive as of the week of April 11, down from 7.7 a week earlier, according to data released by MLHU this week.

Ontario

Ontario is reporting 3,682 new cases of COVID-19 and 40 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 1,131 new cases in Toronto, 507 in Peel Region and 436 in York Region.

She also says there are 279 new cases in Ottawa and 200 in Durham Region.

Nearly 135,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ontario since yesterday’s daily report.

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Read more: Ontario reports nearly 3,700 new COVID-19 cases, 40 deaths as ICU patients surpass 800

A visibly emotional Premier Doug Ford apologized on Thursday for new COVID-19 restrictions that sparked a furious backlash as he confirmed the government would bring in a paid sick-leave program for workers after months of refusing to do so.

Ford said he was sorry for increasing police enforcement powers and closing playgrounds last Friday — measures that were rolled back amid an onslaught of criticism — and that his government got it wrong.

Public health experts, labour groups and local officials have been calling for sick-leave support for much of the pandemic, arguing it would reduce COVID-19 spread in workplaces.

Ford had steadfastly refused to implement such a program but his government indicated this week that it would finally change course.

Read more: Doug Ford confirms paid sick leave program for workers coming, apologizes for backtracking

His ministers have said a provincial policy would fill “gaps” in Ottawa’s benefit, including reducing wait times for funds, expanding eligibility, and providing time off to get vaccinated.

Ford’s apology and sick-leave confirmation came came Thursday at his first news conference since he announced the new COVID-19 regulations late last week. He was in self-isolation after a member of his staff tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

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Elgin and Oxford

One death and 26 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Elgin and Oxford, officials with Southwestern Public Health said Thursday.

It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 3,263, of which 3,020 have resolved, an increase of 42 from the day before.

At least 75 deaths have been reported during the pandemic. The most recent death involved a man in his 60s from Oxford County, according to a health unit spokesperson.

The death is at least the sixth to be reported since the month began.

The health unit says at least 180 cases are active in the Elgin-Oxford region, including 54 in St. Thomas, 40 in Woodstock, and 27 in Tillsonburg.

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At least five people are currently in the hospital for COVID-19, including one person in the ICU.

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The number of variant cases identified in the region currently stands at 316, an increase of nine from the day before.

Of those, at least 289 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 61 are active, the health unit says.

According to the province, cases are presumed to be the B.1.1.7 variant if they screen positive for just a single 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 27 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 8 are still active.

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Read more: COVID-19: Elgin-Oxford’s third mass vaccination clinic to open in Tillsonburg on April 27: SWPH

As of Wednesday, Elgin-Oxford residents have a new option when it comes to where they are immunized.

Health officials say the region’s third mass vaccination clinic will open on Tuesday at Tillsonburg Community Centre, where it will run from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Residents can book slots at the clinic now.

The new clinic joins the two others that have already been operating in St. Thomas and Woodstock.

Eligible residents are asked to visit the area’s vaccine booking site or call 226-289-3560 to book an appointment.

Staying with the topic of eligibility, more groups are also now able to get that vaccine.

As of Wednesday, adults 16 and older with certain health conditions considered to be “highest-risk” by the province can get a shot, along with one primary caregiver.

More information can be found on the health unit website.

Those 50 and older in the N5H postal code, centred around Aylmer, are also now eligible to get a vaccine at one of the region’s three clinics. Elsewhere in Elgin-Oxford, the age cut off is 60.

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N5H is considered a COVID-19 hot spot location by the province. People living in N5H will have to show proof of age and proof of address at the clinic, officials said.

Hundreds of people from N5H are also expected to be vaccinated through a one-day pop-up clinic organized by the East Elgin Family Health Team.

Lock said people shouldn’t wait to get a Pfizer shot and should get the one that is currently available to them.

“The best vaccine for you is the one you can get today. Any one of the three vaccines that are available currently will do the job and is safe. We encourage people to get whatever vaccine is available for them,” Lock said.

Those 40 and older can get an AstraZeneca shot at one of more than two dozen pharmacies in the region, as part of a provincial program.

As the program is provincially-run, and not run by local health units, appointments should be made directly with a participating pharmacy.

Read more: COVID-19: ‘Ring vaccination’ can teach us how to target limited supply

No new school cases appear to have been reported

Several cases, however, remain active that are associated with local schools. Full lists of active cases within Elgin-Oxford can be found on the websites of the Thames Valley District School Board and the London District Catholic School Board.

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No new outbreaks have been declared.

One remains active, located at Caressant Care Bonnie Place in St. Thomas. Declared April 2, it’s linked to three resident cases and two staff cases.

Overall, the health unit says a total of 707 cases have been reported in Woodstock during the pandemic, while 593 have been in St. Thomas, 490 in Aylmer and 394 in Tillsonburg.

Elsewhere, 221 cases have been in Norwich, 178 in Bayham, 156 in Ingersoll, 129 in East Zorra-Tavistock, 77 in Central Elgin, 76 in Blandford-Blenheim, 71 in Zorra, 62 in South-West Oxford, 37 in Dutton/Dunwich, 27 in Southwold, 26 in West Elgin and 18 in Malahide.

The region’s test positivity rate stood at 3.2 per cent the week of April 11, up from 2.9 the previous week.

Huron and Perth

Four new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Huron-Perth, local health officials reported on Thursday.

Two cases were reported in North Perth and one each in Central Huron and West Perth.

It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 1,537, of which 1,445 have resolved, an increase of five from the day before. At least 52 deaths have been reported, most recently on April 13.

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At least 40 cases are active, including 14 in North Perth and seven each in Stratford and West Perth.

One person is currently in hospital.

The number of variant cases identified in the region stands at 64, one more than the day before.

Of those, at least 31 have been confirmed through genomic analysis to be, or are presumed to be, the B.1.1.7 variant, according to Public Health Ontario.

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.)

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The health unit says at least 35,475 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the region as of April 20, a tally which includes first and second doses.

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Currently, all adults 65 and older are currently eligible to get the shot, along with other specifically identified groups, such as frontline health-care workers and people living or working in high-risk congregate living settings.

Adults 16 and older with highest-risk health conditions are also eligible. Those highest-risk health conditions include:

  • Haematological malignancy diagnosed <1 year
  • Hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients
  • Kidney disease eGFR <30
  • Neurological diseases in which respiratory function may be compromised (e.g., motor neuron disease, myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis)
  • Organ transplant recipients.

The health unit says one primary essential caregiver for a person with an eligible health condition is also able to get the vaccine.

More information on the local vaccine campaign and eligibility 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 pilot.

Local health units are not directly involved in the pharmacy initiative, and residents are asked to contact the pharmacies directly.

Read more: Quebec adds almost 1,250 new cases as province sets another COVID-19 vaccination record

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No new school cases were reported in Huron-Perth as of late Tuesday morning.

Three were reported on Wednesday — two at Brookside Public School in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh and one at Listowel Eastdale Public School — but none involved school exposure.

Elementary and secondary students returned to remote learning this week when the deferred spring break ended.

Elsewhere, cases also remain active that associated with F.E. Madill Secondary School (two cases), Stratford District Secondary School, Shakespeare Public School, and St. Joseph’s Catholic Elementary School.

Only two outbreaks are active in the region, both at unnamed workplaces. No other details have been released.

At least 610 cases have been reported in Perth County, with 378 in North Perth and 140 in Perth East, while at least 500 have been reported in Huron County, with 110 in South Huron and 105 in Huron East.

Stratford has reported at least 389 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

Seventeen new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Lambton County, local health officials said Thursday.

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The update brings Lambton’s pandemic case tally to 3,159, of which 3,025 have resolved, an increase of 22 from the day before. At least 55 deaths have been reported, most recently on Tuesday.

At least 79 cases are currently active in the region, and at least 11 people are in hospital at Bluewater Health — an increase of three from the day before.

The health unit says 302 variant cases have been identified in Lambton so far, an increaseo f nine from the day before.

Of those, at least 240 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 62 cases 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.

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Read more: Emergency House of Commons debate on COVID-19 devolves into finger-pointing

More than 40,103 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Lambton County as of Tuesday, according to an update from the health unit.

At least 37,763 people have received a first dose while 2,340 have received two.

The health unit says the majority of people included in the first phase of the province’s three-phase vaccine rollout plan have seen at least one dose of vaccine in the county.

With Phase 2 vaccinations underway, the health unit says people aged 60 and older, or who are turning 60 this year, remain eligible, along with other previously identified groups.

Some essential front-line workers who can’t work from home are also eligible, along with those with highest-risk and high-risk health conditions, along with one essential caregiver.

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

Clinics are fully booked until May 5, but additional clinics will be open soon, the health unit said.

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 to visit the health unit’s website when spots become available.

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Meanwhile, multiple pharmacies in Lambton are also continuing to offer the AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged 55 and older as part of the province-run pilot program. Residents are asked to book appointments with the pharmacies directly.

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How many, if any, school cases have been reported is unclear.

The Lambton-Kent District School Board has paused reporting of new cases at its schools during the remote learning period, while the St. Clair Catholic District School Board’s website showed no change on Thursday.

Previous figures can be found on the websites of the Lambton-Kent District School Board and St. Clair Catholic District School Board.

One new outbreak has been declared in the region, located at an unnamed workplace, linked to three cases.

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It’s one of three workplace outbreaks active in Lambton. The others, declared April 20 and April 27, are linked to seven and eight cases, respectively.

Elsewhere, an outbreak is active in a student residence of Lambton College in Sarnia. The outbreak, declared on Monday, is tied to five resident cases.

The health unit says the county’s test positivity rate was 1.9 per cent as of the week of April 11, down from 2.8 the week before.

At least 143,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Lambton.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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