One person has died and 104 others have tested positive for COVID-19 in London and Middlesex, local health officials reported on Thursday.
The health unit also announced that vaccine eligibility was being expanded to people 55-plus at local mass vaccination clinics as of Friday, with people 50-plus expected to come next week as part of an “aggressive” vaccination timeline unveiled by the province. The timeline aims to see all adults eligible by the week of May 24.
At the same time, officials reported that the number of cases in the region confirmed to involve the P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil, had risen by two to four.
The region’s overall pandemic case tally stands to 10,305, of which 9,154 have resolved, an increase of 88 from the previous day.
At least 198 COVID-19-related deaths have been reported during the pandemic. The most recent death involved a man in his 60s who was not associated with a a seniors’ facility. No other details have been released.
As of Thursday, the health unit says at least 953 cases are active in London-Middlesex, up 14 from Wednesday.
At least 3,124 cases have been reported in London-Middlesex since the start of April, more than any other month by far.
The region’s rolling seven-day case average stands at 99, about the same as the 101 seen the seven days previous.
Roughly 6.8 per cent of tests in London-Middlesex were coming back positive as of the week of April 18, new data shows. It’s a decline from the 7.0 per cent seen a week earlier.
Of the 104 cases reported Thursday, 92 are from London while 12 are from Middlesex County.
Continuing an ongoing trend seen in recent weeks, those who tested positive skew younger, with around 67 per cent under the age of 40 and half under the age of 30.
At least 25 are 19 or younger; 27 are in their 20s; 18 are in their 30s; 14 are in their 40s; 11 are in their 50s; four each are in their 60s and 70s; and one is 80 or older.
Close contact is listed as the exposure source for 44 cases, while 34 others have pending data or are undetermined. At least 17 cases have no known link, while nine are due to outbreak.
When it comes to variant cases, the health unit says two more cases from the London-Middlesex region have been found to involve the P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil.
At least four local P.1 variant cases have been confirmed so far.
They’re among at least 1,571 variant cases that have been found locally overall, of which nearly all, 1,567, have been the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K.
Variants have made up the majority of cases here in recent weeks, including upwards of 60 per cent of cases seen during the weeks of April 4 and 11.
The health unit notes that its overall variant tally includes cases presumed to be B.1.1.7, as well as cases that have undergone genomic analysis and confirmed to involve a variant of some kind.
- 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 mutation 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.
A separate tally showing the number of cases that have screened positive for a variant-associated mutation but which have not been confirmed or presumed to be a variant, stands at 269, an increase of five from the day before. (The tally will fluctuate as cases undergo genomic analysis and are confirmed.)
Of those 269 cases, 138 were found to have the E484K mutation, consistent with the B.1.351 and P.1 variants. They are under genomic analysis. Of those 138, 117 had both the E484K and N501Y mutations.
The remaining 131 cases were initially found to have just the N501Y mutation, however they have not been ruled out for E484K. As a result, they are not being presumed B.1.1.7 and added to the main variant tally. It’s unclear if or when these cases may be added.
“We’re continuing to see intense spread of COVID in our community. Roughly just over 100 cases per day, on average, over the past week or so,” Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health said on Thursday.
“That is really close to where we have been in terms of peak spread of COVID. And we know that our testing numbers are down a bit as they are across the province, so there’s no doubt we’re at peak COVID spread levels, and we absolutely need to do everything possible to protect each other and stay safe.”
At least 9,220 cases have been confirmed in the city of London since the pandemic began, while 328 have been in Middlesex Centre.
Elsewhere, 298 cases have been in Strathroy-Caradoc, 138 in Thames Centre, 67 in Lucan Biddulph, 56 in North Middlesex, 53 in Southwest Middlesex, 15 in Adelaide Metcalfe and two in Newbury.
At least 128 cases have pending location information.
There were 95 COVID-19 patients listed as being in the care of London Health Sciences Centre as of Thursday, an increase of two from the previous update.
At the same time, a record 44 were in intensive care, four more than the previous update. At least 44 people were in intensive care on Tuesday as well, according to provincial data. At the time, at least 39 of them were on ventilators.
Five LHSC staff are currently positive with COVID-19, a decrease of one.
At St. Joseph’s Hospital, meantime, no COVID-19 patients were listed as being in its care as of Monday, it’s most recent update.. Five staff cases are active within St. Joseph’s Health Care London, however it’s not clear in which facility the staff work.
Hard-hit Toronto-area hospitals have been transferring patients to other hospitals in the province, including London, St. Thomas and Stratford.
Earlier this week, an LHSC official said the organization was expecting between two and six patients to be transferred into their care every day this week.
To deal with the influx of cases, LHSC has opened at least 25 new critical care beds in recent weeks, including at least three in the paediatric critical care unit of Children’s Hospital. Those beds had not been utilized as of Monday.
Surgical capacity at LHSC stands at around 50 per cent of normal in a bid to open up more resources, with the number of non-urgent scheduled procedures reduced per a provincial directive.
At least 496 people in London-Middlesex have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 during the pandemic, including 87 in intensive care, the health unit says.
No new institutional outbreaks have been declared and none are currently active, according to the health unit.
A non-institutional outbreak is still active at the city’s Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. It has been linked to at least 59 inmates and 43 staff cases since it was declared on Jan. 18, according to local and provincial data.
No inmate cases were listed as active as of Thursday. Similar information was not readily available for staff cases.
Elsewhere, a workplace outbreak also remains active at Cargill, however the facility has resumed production as of Friday of last week.
At least 122 cases have been associated with the outbreak, but none have been reported in the last several days, according to the health unit.
No long-term care or retirement homes have been active since early April.
Such facilities, which account for about 800 of the region’s cases and 106 of its deaths, were hammered during the first and second waves of the pandemic.
In a scathing report Wednesday, Bonnie Lysyk, the province’s auditor general, found that Ontario’s nursing homes were woefully unprepared for the onslaught of COVID-19 — the culmination of years of neglect and failure to address known problems.
Both the provincial government and nursing-home sector had failed to heed lessons learned from the SARS epidemic, while concerns raised repeatedly for years went unaddressed, the report said.
While vaccinations have now blunted the impact of COVID-19, the sector remains vulnerable, Lysyk said.
Among the issues focused on were overcrowding, poor ministry oversight and a severe staffing shortage that existed even before the pandemic struck.
Schools and child care
No new school cases have been reported in London and Middlesex and only one case is active, according to the health unit. The case involves Rick Hansen Public School.
No change has been reported in the number of outbreak declarations that are active at local schools:
- École élémentaire catholique Frère André
- Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School
- Providence Reformed Collegiate
- St. Andre Bessette Secondary School
- St. Francis School
At least 350 cases associated with elementary and secondary schools have been reported in the region during the pandemic.
The number of cases involving child care and early years settings in the region continues to rise, with seven new cases recorded as of Thursday.
At least 73 such cases have been reported during the pandemic, of which at least 22 are currently active involving eight facilities.
The most active cases, 11, are associated with London Bridge: Rowntree Park Early Childhood Learning Centre in London, an increase of five from the day before. An outbreak was declared at the facility on April 25.
In an email, Angela Woodburn, co-executive director of London Bridge Child Care Services, said that the health unit had recommended that all staff and children quarantine as a result of increased transmission at Rowntree Park.
As a result, Rowntree Park is closed until at least May 13, she said.
“We have conducted a deep clean of the centre and will continue to partner with Public Health to plan for a safe reopening,” Woodburn said.
“We recognize the disruption this causes for families and our thoughts are with all the children, their families and London Bridge educators who are impacted.”
Elsewhere, three cases each are active involving Angels Daycares Komoka, two more than the day before. An outbreak was declared at the facility on Wednesday.
Three active cases are also associated with Miss B’s Childcare, where an outbreak has been active since April 24.
One case each is also associated with the following locations, according to the health unit:
- Amanda’s Home Daycare
- Deb’s Daycare
- Grand Avenue Child Care Centre
- London Children’s Connection: Westminster Children’s Centre
- North Woods Montessori School.
In post-secondary, meanwhile, another student residence outbreak has been declared over at Western University.
The outbreak had been active at Medway-Sydenham Hall from March 31 until Wednesday, linked to at least 34 cases, according to the health unit.
It comes a day after an outbreak at Essex Hall, declared April 4 and linked to at least 12 cases, was declared over. On Sunday, an outbreak in Ontario Hall, active since March 25 and linked to 18 cases, was also resolved.
Five student residence outbreaks remain active, according to the health unit.
- London Hall – 10
- Elgin Hall – 15
- Delaware Hall – 21 + 1 under investigation
- Perth Hall – 31
- Saugeen-Maitland Hall – 55 + 3 probable cases.
Including the now-resolved Essex Hall, Medway-Sydenham Hall, and Ontario Hall outbreaks, outbreaks declared at Western residences since late March have been linked to a least 196 cases, according to the health unit.
Vaccinations and Testing
Vaccination eligibility is set to expand again this week to people 55 and older, local health officials said Thursday, with people 50 and older expected next week.
The 55-plus crowd will be able to book an appointment through the local booking system starting on Friday morning, at the same time Ontarians elsewhere will be able to do so through the provincial system.
The announcement comes the same day that people 18+ who work at licensed child-care settings became eligible for the vaccine, and roughly a week after people 16+ with certain highest-risk and high-risk health conditions, including kidney disease, obesity, and pregnancy, became vaccine-eligible.
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 mass vaccination clinics. Online appointments are encouraged due to the high call volume.
But wait, there’s more!
Not long before the health unit held its afternoon media briefing, the province announced it was forecasting that everyone over the age of 18 will be able to book a vaccine appointment by May 24 should expected vaccine supply hold.
The province expects to receive larger volumes of vaccines, largely in the form of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. The province is expected to receive over 4 million of those doses in May and more than 3.7 million in June.
“The provincial timetable is aggressive, we believe will be able to, more or less, keep pace here in Middlesex and London within a couple of days,” Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, said during the health unit briefing.
Before that happens, though, the health unit hopes to open vaccine eligibility to all people over the age of 50 sometime next week, along with the first of two provincially-identified groups of essential frontline workers who can’t work from home, Mackie said.
“We don’t have a date on that, but we will do our best to make that happen next week,” he said.
“From my perspective, with this forecast, it appears we’re finally in the homestretch,” London Mayor Ed Holder said of the May 24 18-plus timeline.
“I used to argue that there was light at the end of the tunnel, but my complaint was I couldn’t even see the tunnel. Well, it looks like it’s starting to come together.”
Roughly 160,000 vaccine doses have been administered locally so far, with about 23,240 immunizations just over the last week at the region’s three main vaccination centres.
“That’s an average of over 3,000 per day. And we’ll see a little bit of a dip next week, but really accelerating in the weeks after that,” Mackie said Thursday.
Roughly 30 to 35 per cent of local adults have been vaccinated so far, and Mackie said the health unit hopes to meet the province’s goal of having 40 per cent vaccinated by the end of April.
The health unit also still anticipates opening a fourth clinic at the Earl Nichols Arena within the next month, even as more vaccine doses are allocated to provincially-designated hot spots.
The province said Thursday that it will send half of its available COVID-19 vaccines to hot spots for the next two weeks.
The increase, from 25 to 50 per cent, comes as a result of the fresh influx of doses, the province says, the same influx that’s allowing it to pursue its more aggressive vaccine eligibility timeline.
Earlier this week, Dr. Mackie said the region was set to see its usual roughly 13,000 Pfizer doses next week and the week after, following a dip this week to about 9,000.
The health unit says it’s still expecting to see that much with the province’s 50 per cent hot spot announcement.
“Essentially what has happened is that our surge in vaccine will be pushed back two weeks later than it would have otherwise occurred,” Mayor Holder said.
While he would have preferred the local vaccine dose surge to begin sooner, Holder said the fact that the region’s existing vaccine supplies will be maintained during the two week hot spot blitz is welcome news.
“The fact is, we only need to look at the number of people from out of town currently being cared for in our local ICU to realize that hot spots, wherever they are, have an impact on us here in London,” he said.
Holder appears to have come around from his previous comments during Monday’s briefing that he “absolutely” did not accept a reduction for London.
“Look, I understand the challenges being faced in some parts of the GTA and elsewhere, but so-called hot spots can change in a very short period of time. Just look at London, where N6A was a hot spot recently and today is not,” he said at the time.
“As mentioned, additional vaccines are already being sent to hot spots, not to mention we are receiving patients from elsewhere in our ICU… Allocating up to 50 per cent of provincial vaccine supply to hot-spot neighbourhoods is just a bridge too far for me, and it’s not something I can support.”
As of Monday, there were at least nine primary care sites in the region that are administering vaccines, with another 16 ready to go. Roughly 5,700 doses of AstraZeneca were allocated.
When it comes to AstraZeneca shots at local pharmacies, Mackie said the region had been allocated about 21,000 doses, but data was limited as to how immunizations there were going.
The pharmacy program is being led by the province. Residents are asked to book a spot with the pharmacies themselves, however waitlists for the shot have been long.
Local health officials have stressed that Londoners should get the vaccine they’re eligible for rather than wait.
Those looking to get tested for COVID-19 can still visit the region’s two main assessment centres, at Carling Heights and Oakridge Arena, which remain open and operating by appointment.
Ontario is reporting 41 new deaths linked to COVID-19, pushing the province’s death toll past 8,000.
The number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in Ontario now stands at 8,029.
The province is also reporting 3,871 new cases of the virus today.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 1,172 new cases in Toronto, 901 in Peel Region, and 392 in York Region.
She also says there are 292 new cases in Durham Region and 147 in Ottawa.
The ministry of health says 2,248 people are hospitalized, 884 are in intensive care, and 620 are on a ventilator.
Today’s data is based on more than 56,900 completed tests.
Ontario says that 120,567 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Wednesday’s report, bringing the provincial total to more than five million.
Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones are set to announce an update to its vaccination rollout plan later today.
Premier Doug Ford remains in self-isolation after possible exposure to the virus.
Elgin and Oxford
Nineteen new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Elgin-Oxford, officials with Southwestern Public Health said on Thursday.
It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 3,392, of which 3,175 have resolved, an increase of 19 from the day before.
The number of active cases in Elgin-Oxford remains at 141, with at least 43 in Woodstock, 27 in St. Thomas, and 21 in Tillsonburg.
At least nine people from SWPH are in hospital with COVID-19, including two in the ICU.
The number of variant cases identified in the region stands at 380, an increase of 10 from the day before.
Of those, at least 340 have been determined to be the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K., the health unit says. At least 28 of those cases are active.
Meanwhile, another 40 cases have screened positive for the spike protein mutation E484K, which has been associated with the B.1.351 and P.1 variants, detected in South Africa and Brazil, respectively. These cases are still undergoing genomic analysis to confirm a specific variant. Of those, eight are still active.
Like in London-Middlesex, people 55 and older in Elgin-Oxford will be able to book an appointment for a vaccine starting Friday morning, along with younger people in previously identified groups.
In addition, the N5H postal area, which is centred around Aylmer and which earlier this month was designated a COVID-19 hot spot by the province, will begin seeing more vaccine doses come its way, and will have eligibility lowered to all adults 18 and older starting next week.
The province announced Thursday that it would be sending half of its available vaccine doses over the next two weeks to its 114 designated hot spots, and unveiled that hot spot areas would see eligibility lowered to 18-plus the week of May 3.
For residents of N5H, proof of address will be required upon visiting one of the region’s mass vaccination clinics.
Three mass vaccination clinics are in operation, including one in Tillsonburg which opened on Tuesday. The others are located 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.
At the same time, people 40 and older are eligible to get vaccinated at pharmacies across the region as part of a province-run pilot program. Appointments should be made directly with a participating pharmacy.
Roughly 59,000 residents in SWPH have seen at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
No new outbreaks have been declared and none are active.
No new school cases were reported. Two remain active, with one at Arthur Voaden Secondary School in St. Thomas and Winchester Street Public School in Woodstock.
At least 746 of the region’s cases have been reported in Woodstock during the pandemic. Elsewhere, St. Thomas has seen 615, while Aylmer has reported 497 and Tillsonburg 414.
Elsewhere, 224 cases have been in Norwich, 180 in Bayham, 165 in Ingersoll, 129 in East Zorra-Tavistock, 84 in Central Elgin, 80 in Blandford-Blenheim, 75 in Zorra, 65 in South-West Oxford, 44 in Dutton/Dunwich, 28 in Southwold, 27 in West Elgin and 18 in Malahide.
The region’s test positivity rate stood at 3.5 per cent as of the week of April 18, figures released this week show. The tally is up from 3.3 per cent the previous week, and 2.9 the week before that.
Huron and Perth
Five new COVID-19 cases have been reported in the Huron-Perth region, local health officials said Thursday.
It brings the pandemic case tally there to 1,570, of which 1,483 have resolved, an increase of five from the previous day. At least 52 deaths have been reported, most recently on April 13.
Of Thursday’s five new cases, two each are from Central Huron and North Perth while one is from Stratford.
The region has 35 active cases, the same as the day before. At least 11 of them are in North Perth, while seven each are in Central Huron and Stratford.
Variant cases in the region now number 92, an increase of five from the previous day.
Forty-two of those cases have been confirmed through genomic analysis to be, or are presumed to be, the B.1.1.7 variant, according to Public Health Ontario. Nineteen variant cases are still active.
The rest remain under investigation. The health unit has not said what spike protein mutations those remaining cases screened positive for, which may indicate what variant is involved.
More than 46,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Huron-Perth as of Thursday, according to the health unit.
Roughly 37.2 per cent of Huron-Perth residents have seen at least one dose, while 3.3 per cent have seen two.
Like in other regions, people 55 and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine starting Friday morning, along with previously identified groups.
The health unit says appointments are fully booked up next week, but spots are open for between May 11 and 29.
More information on the local vaccine campaign and eligibility can be found on the health unit’s website.
Those looking to book an appointment once spots are available are asked to do so via the local booking system or by calling 1-833-753-2098.
Vaccinations are also still ongoing at local pharmacies for people 40 and older. As the immunizations are being done as part of a provincial program, bookings should be done with the pharmacies themselves.
No new school cases have been reported. At least 11 school-linked cases are active. Lists can be found on the websites of the Avon-Maitland District School Board and the Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board.
No new outbreaks have been declared and only one is active at an unnamed workplace.
A total of 626 cases have been reported in Perth County, with 390 in North Perth and 144 in Perth East, while 511 have been reported in Huron County, with 110 in South Huron and 105 in Huron East.
Stratford has reported at least 395 in total, while St. Marys has seen 38.
The region’s test positivity rate stood at 1.7 the week of April 11, up from 1.5 the week before. New figures are expected this week.
Sarnia and Lambton
Ten more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Lambton County, local health officials said Thursday. The region has also recorded its first case involving the P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil.
Thursday’s update brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 3,227, of which 3,095 have resolved, an increase of 12 from the day before. At least 56 deaths have been reported, most recently on Saturday.
The health unit says 76 cases are active in the region, down two from the previous day.
At least 11 people are in hospital with COVID-19 at Bluewater Health, up one from the day before.
The health unit says 375 variant cases have been identified in Lambton so far, an increase of 32 from the day before.
Provincial data shows at least one of those cases involves the P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil. The case is the first to be confirmed in Lambton so far.
At least 260 others have been either confirmed through genomic analysis to be, or are presumed to be, the B.1.1.7 variant, according to the province.
- 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 mutation will undergo genomic testing.
The remaining 116 cases have either screened positive for the E484K mutation and are undergoing genomic analysis, or screened positive for N501Y but their E484K status is unknown.
The health unit says more than 45,341 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Lambton so far, about 39 per cent of the eligible population.
The province’s booking system will see eligibility expanded to people 55 and older as of Friday morning, along with previously identified groups.
More eligibility information can be found on the health unit’s website.
Eligible residents are asked to visit the health unit’s website to book an appointment or to contact the health unit at 519-383-8331, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Multiple pharmacies in Lambton are also continuing to offer the AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged 40 and older as part of the province-run pilot program.
The health unit says the pharmacies will continue to offer the shot “once more supply becomes available.” Residents are asked to book appointments with the pharmacies directly.
No new school cases were reported by the St. Clair Catholic District School Board. No cases are active under the school board’s purview.
The Lambton-Kent District School Board, meanwhile, has paused public reporting of new cases while students are learning remotely.
Four outbreaks remain active in the region.
One is located in a residence of Lambton College and involves 12 cases, two more than the day before.
Another active outbreak involves North Lambton Childcare Centre – St. Peter Canisus Site, linked to two cases, unchanged from the day before.
The two other outbreaks are both located at unnamed workplaces, involving three and nine cases, respectively.
The health unit says the county’s test positivity rate was 2.1 per cent the week of April 18, up from 1.9 per cent the week prior, but still below the 2.8 per cent seen the week of April 4.
— With files from The Canadian PressView link »