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COVID-19: 1 death, 26 new cases in London-Middlesex; all adults vaccine-eligible Tuesday

FILE - A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

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One death and 26 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in London and Middlesex, local health officials said Monday, the same day the province unveiled it was expediting the expansion of vaccine eligibility to all adults 18 and older to Tuesday instead of May 27.

The smaller increase is an undercount and is being attributed to an outage Sunday evening of the provincial reporting system, the health unit said.

“The provincial program that tracks COVID cases and reports them from the labs to local public health, went down at about quarter to six yesterday in the afternoon,” Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, said Monday.

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“The numbers have been quite hopeful over the last several days, but 26 is not the case count from yesterday.” Cases missing from Monday’s case count will be reported with Tuesday’s update.

Read more: Ontario expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone 18 and up, starting Tuesday

Monday’s case update brings the region’s pandemic case total to 11,624, of which 10,739 have resolved, an increase of 68 from the day before.

At least 213 deaths have been reported. The most recent death involved a woman in her 70s who was not associated with a long-term care or retirement home, the health unit said

At least 672 COVID-19 cases are active. London-Middlesex has recorded 1,135 cases since the start of the month, along with 13 deaths.

During Monday’s briefing, Dr. Mackie noted that the region had recently recorded a death involving someone over the age of 80 who had received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The most important reminder in that case is that it’s so important to maintain COVID prevention measures other than vaccination,” Mackie said.

“Vaccination is very effective at preventing severe COVID outcomes, but it is not 100 per cent effective. You absolutely need masking, distancing and avoiding unnecessary gatherings at this stage when we still have significant numbers of COVID cases being reported every day.”

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The region’s rolling seven-day case average stands at 59 (May 10-16), down from 83 the seven days prior. At this time last month, the average was 125.

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Of the 26 new cases, 23 are from London while three are from elsewhere in Middlesex County.

At least three involve people 19 or younger; eight are in their 20s; four are in their 30s; one is in their 40s; six are in their 50s; three are in their 30s; and one is 80 or older. No cases involve people 70-79.

Thirteen cases are listed as being due to close contact, eight have no known link, four are pending or undetermined, and one is linked to travel.

The number of confirmed/presumed* variant cases recorded in London-Middlesex has risen by 37 to 2,575.

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The vast majority of local variant cases, 2,512, have involved B.1.1.7. Twenty-five have involved the variant P.1, first detected in Brazil, while one has involved the variant B.1.617, first detected in India.

Variants have been making up a large majority of the cases seen in the region over the last several weeks.

At least 82 per cent of cases seen during the week of May 2, and 61 per cent of cases seen during the week of May 9, were variants. (Data for the week of May 9 is still being added, so that percentage is likely to increase.)

*A note on the process of confirming and presuming variant cases:

  • Positive COVID-19 cases undergo initial screening for spike protein mutations common to variants (including N501Y, E484K and K417N), and if found to have one or more, undergo further genomic analysis to determine the specific variant involved (such as B.1.1.7, B.1.351 or P.1) — a process that can take up to two weeks.
  • The province has stopped conducting genomic analysis on cases that screen positive for just N501Y. Those cases are presumed to involve the B.1.1.7 variant, as the variant has only been associated with that mutation.
  • Cases that screen positive for either E484K or K417N 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 total of 298 other cases have been found to have a spike protein mutation consistent with one or more coronavirus variants.

Of those, 167 were found to have the E484K mutation, consistent with the P.1 and B.1.351 variants. They remain under genomic testing to determine the specific variant involved.

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Another 131 cases were initially found to have just the N501Y mutation, but since they have not been ruled out for E484K, they are not being presumed B.1.1.7 yet.

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A total of 10,439 cases have been confirmed in London since the pandemic began, while 357 have been in Middlesex Centre.

Elsewhere, 326 cases have been in Strathroy-Caradoc, 147 in Thames Centre, 72 in Lucan Biddulph, 56 in North Middlesex, 54 in Southwest Middlesex, 15 in Adelaide Metcalfe and three in Newbury.

At least 127 cases have pending location information.

Hospitalizations

At least 49 COVID-19 patients were listed as being in the care of London Health Sciences Centre as of noon Monday, a decrease of nine from LHSC’s update on Friday.

Of those, 23 are in intensive care, a decrease of five from Friday.

Fewer than five staff are positive with COVID-19, unchanged from the previous update.

“Of (the) 49, 38 are from our normal referral network, London and surrounding communities, and 11 have been brought in from outside the region,” said Dr. Adam Dukelow, LHSC’s chief medical officer during Monday’s briefing.

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“While our COVID-19 numbers are decreasing, we are still caring for 40 patients that have recovered from COVID but still remain in hospital,” he said.

“We want to be transparent that it will take some time before we see significant improvements to our overall capacity. At the same time, we’re encouraged by the ongoing signs of stabilization across the entire system, and we continue to be cautiously optimistic as we look to the weeks ahead.”

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LHSC has opened more than two dozen additional critical care beds to deal with the influx of patients from other regions, namely the hard-hit Toronto-area, and has curbed non-urgent surgeries as part of a provincial directive.

“We cannot resume any non-urgent surgeries until there are changes to directive #2. We anticipate that will happen in the coming days or week or so,” Dukelow said, adding the limiting factor will be the organization’s health and human resources.

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“While community cases have declined and our in-hospital numbers of COVID patients have declined, the numbers I referenced earlier on… are still quite high, and we are still obligated to maintain the intensive care capacity that we’ve built up over the past few months,” Dukelow noted.

“In order to maintain that critical care capacity, we need people, specifically nurses, PSWs, other front line care providers, that are currently working on our ICUs that would normally work in our post anesthesia care unit or in our operating rooms.”

Dukelow said that as much as LHSC would like to get back quickly to scheduled services, it will take weeks if not months for things to get back to normal. Recovering from the surgical backlog, he said, may take years.

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At St. Joseph’s Health Care London, meanwhile, no COVID-19 patients were listed in the care of St. Joseph’s Hospital or any of SJHCL’s other facilities.

At least four staff cases are active within the SJHCL organization.

At least 613 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19 in London-Middlesex during the pandemic, including 101 who have needed intensive care, the health unit says.

Outbreaks

No new outbreaks have been declared and none deemed resolved.

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Four are currently active in the region at seniors’ facilities.

One each is active at Dearness Home (5 East, 5 West), Kensington Village (first-floor long-term care) Kensington Village Retirement (Canterbury) and McGarrell Place (Windermere Way).

It’s unclear how many cases have been reported involving each outbreak.

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Health officials are continuing to look into a large outbreak attributed to a funeral service earlier this month.

Health officials said Friday that between 180 and 300 people were being advised to quarantine if they had attended a visitation, funeral service and burial held on May 5 and 6.

At least 14 people have tested positive as a result of the outbreak.

The visitation was held on May 5 at Needham Funeral Service, with the funeral the following day at Holy Cross Santa Cruz Catholic Church, the health unit says. The burial was held later in the day on May 6 at Woodland Cemetary.

“We did have some cases trickle in over the weekend, not evidence of additional spread, but evidence of additional cases being picked up from the screening of close contacts,” Dr. Mackie said Monday.

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“This… highlights the issue of serial events where, in this case you had the ability to gather 10 people indoors for the purpose of funeral, and instead of stopping there, there was a roster where 10 people at a time would come through together.”

Meanwhile, a non-institutional outbreak is also still active at Elgin-MIddlesex Detention Centre.

At least 62 inmate cases and 43 staff cases have been reported at the jail as a result of the outbreak, declared on Jan. 18.

One active inmate case was reported at the jail as of Thursday, the most recent data available.

It’s not clear if there are any other non-institutional outbreaks active in the London-Middlesex region. The health unit only reports outbreaks in child-care, education and health-care settings on its website.

Schools

No new school-linked cases have been reported in the region, according to the health unit.

One is currently active, associated with Bonaventure Meadows Public School, reported over the weekend.

The health unit says 352 school-linked cases have been reported during the pandemic.

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In the local child-care sector, six cases are active that are all associated with Simply Kids.

An outbreak declaration has been active involving the facility since May 12.

Ninety-two cases have been reported at child care/early years settings during the pandemic.

No outbreaks are active involving local post-secondary institutions.

Vaccinations and Testing

All adults in Ontario will be eligible to book a COVID-19 vaccine starting Tuesday.

The province had been set to expand eligibility to all adults on May 27, but says doses that were scheduled to be delivered next week arrived early.

Read more: Medical experts calling on Ontario to rethink when and how 2nd COVID-19 vaccine doses are given

Those who are turning 18 this year will also be allowed to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only vaccine currently authorized for use in youth 12 and older.

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 four vaccination clinics. Online appointments are encouraged.

During Monday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, was celebratory about the news, but noted the expanded eligibility comes up against ongoing vaccine supply limitations.

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“We have capacity in the next four weeks of vaccine booking for about 24,000 people. Unfortunately, in that age group, there are about 135,000 people in this area — so about one dose available for every five or six people in that age group,” Mackie said.

“We are working with the province to try and identify whether additional vaccine supplies can be made available in time for the booking rush that we expect tomorrow morning, and are remaining hopeful that will be the case.”

The province plans to begin rolling out the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to children 12-17 the week of May 31. Mackie said it was not expected that children turning 12 this year will be eligible. Previously, the health unit has said it wants to get first doses to the 12-17 age group by the end of June if supply allows.

Read more: 4.5 million doses of Pfizer, Moderna vaccines coming to Canada this week

Certain high-risk health care workers can book their second doses by phone. More information on who is eligible to get an earlier second dose can be found on the health unit website.

The region’s three mass vaccination clinics are immunizing roughly 3,000 to 3,500 people daily, Mackie said. A fourth clinic is set to open at Earl Nichols Recreation Centre on May 25, and a fifth is being proposed, however its opening date is a very long way out.

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“We get vaccine allocations that are projected about four weeks, and we don’t see anything over that time period that would justify another another mass clinic, or even close,” Mackie said.

The province has said it hopes to see all eligible Ontarians fully vaccinated by the end of September. The government said it’s on track to see 65 per cent of Ontario adults receive a first dose by the end of this month.

With AstraZeneca shots paused, hundreds of pharmacies across Ontario are now offering doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines as part of the provincial pilot. However, none of them are in London yet.

The closest participating pharmacies are located in Elgin-Oxford, including in Aylmer, Ingersoll, St. Thomas, Tillsonburg, and Woodstock.

“We know that that part of the priority with these pharmacies is to ensure that we also take care of our hot spots where, frankly, the numbers are running rampant,” said London Mayor Ed Holder.

“The province… is in this scenario where they have to balance these things, and we understand the balance as well.”

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Those looking for a COVID-19 test can still visit the region’s two main assessment centres.

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The assessment centres, located at Carling Heights and Oakridge Arena, remain open and operating by appointment.

Shoppers Drug Mart says it is now offering rapid antigen COVID-19 tests for asymptomatic people at all its pharmacies in Ontario and Alberta, though these have to be purchased at a cost of $40.

Ontario

Ontario is reporting 2,170 new cases of COVID-19 today and four more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 566 new cases in Toronto, 556 in Peel Region, and 215 in York Region.

She also says there are 120 new cases in Durham Region and 101 in Hamilton.

Read more: Ontario reports more than 2,100 new COVID-19 cases, 4 deaths

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Today’s data is based on nearly 24,500 completed tests.

The Ministry of Health says that 1,320 people are hospitalized with the virus but notes that more than 10 per cent of hospitals did not submit data over the weekend.

Ontario says 112,330 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Sunday’s daily update, for a total of 7.1 million.

Elgin and Oxford

Thirty-six new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Elgin-Oxford, officials with Southwestern Public Health said Monday in their first update since Friday.

It brings the region’s pandemic case total to 3,668, of which 3,466 have resolved, an increase of 50 from Friday. At least 78 deaths have been reported, most recently on Thursday.

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At least 124 cases are currently active in Elgin-Oxford, including 36 in Woodstock, 22 in Tillsonburg and 19 in St. Thomas.

The health unit says six people from the SWPH region are in hospital with COVID-19. Three of them are in intensive care.

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The number of variant cases, and cases that have screened positive for a mutation consistent with a variant, stands at 666, 26 more then Friday. At least 79 were active.

The health unit reported Monday that the region had recorded its first case involving the B.1.351 variant, first detected in South Africa.

The region has also seen two confirmed cases of the P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil, and has seen at least 592 cases confirmed or presumed to be the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K.

Seventy-one cases have screened positive for the E484K spike protein mutation, which has been associated with the P.1 and B.1.351 variants. Those cases are undergoing genomic analysis.

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More than 80,000 people in SWPH have been vaccinated with at least one dose.

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Like the rest of Ontario, all people 18 and older will be vaccine-eligible starting Tuesday. People 18-plus living in the N5H area are currently able to get a shot as the area is still a designated hot spot.

Eligible residents are asked to visit the area’s vaccine booking site and are being encouraged to add their name to a same-day vaccination list.

Certain high-risk health care workers are also able to schedule their second doses. A list of eligible workers can be found on the MLHU website. Bookings for second doses must be made by phone at 226-289-3560.

Meanwhile, with first doses of AstraZeneca paused, several local pharmacies are now offering up Pfizer and Moderna shots as part of the provincial pharmacy pilot.

Pharmacies in Aylmer, Ingersoll, St. Thomas, Tillsonburg and Woodstock are offering doses of the mRNA vaccines. Locations can be found on the province’s website and bookings must be made with the pharmacies themselves.

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No new school-related cases have been reported and none are active, according to local school boards.

No new outbreaks have been declared. Two are active.

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One is located at Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital and is linked to 15 patient cases, five staff cases, and one death — one patient case more than the day before.

The other active outbreak is located at Caressant Care Nursing Home in Woodstock, and is associated with four resident cases, six staff cases, and one death.

Woodstock has reported the most cases overall with at least 817, followed by St. Thomas with 670, Aylmer with 514 and Tillsonburg with 467.

At least 236 have been in Norwich Township, while 186 have been in Bayham, 178 in Ingersoll, 140 in East Zorra-Tavistock, 91 in Central Elgin, 89 in Blandford-Blenheim, 82 in Zorra, 69 in South-West Oxford, 46 in Dutton/Dunwich, 36 in Southwold, 28 in West Elgin and 18 in Malahide.

The region’s test positivity rate stood at three per cent the week of May 2, down from 3.2 per cent the previous week.

Huron and Perth

Thirteen new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Huron-Perth, local health officials said on Monday in their first update since Friday.

Three cases each were reported in Central Huron and Stratford, two were from Bluewater, and one each from North Huron, North Perth, South Huron, St. Marys, and West Perth.

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It brings the region’s pandemic case total to 1,730, an increase of 12 from Friday. One previously confirmed case was reassigned to a different health unit.

At least 1,588 of the region’s cases have resolved, an increase of 29 from Friday. At least 55 deaths have been reported, most recently on Thursday.

The health unit says 87 cases remain active in the region, including at least 24 each in South Huron and Stratford.

Two people are currently in hospital with COVID-19.

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The number of variant cases, and cases that have screened positive for a mutation consistent with a variant, stands at 214, 17 more than Friday. At least 57 of them are active.

A total of 141 are confirmed or are presumed to be the B.1.1.7 variant, according to Public Health Ontario.

Details on the remaining variant/mutation-positive cases are limited, but it is likely the cases screened positive for the E484K mutation, which is consistent with the B.1.351 and P.1 variants, and are under genomic analysis.

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Health officials say more than 57,475 people have been vaccinated in Huron-Perth so far.

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Roughly 47 per cent of Huron-Perth residents have had at least one dose.

Like the rest of Ontario, all people 18 and older will be vaccine-eligible starting Tuesday.

Certain high-risk health care workers can schedule their second doses, as can essential caregivers of long-term care and retirement homes. More information can be found on the health unit’s website.

Those eligible to book an appointment are asked to do so via the local booking system or by calling 1-833-753-2098.

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Two school-related cases have been reported, one at Anne Hathaway Public School and one at Stratford Intermediate School.

They’re among at least nine school-related cases in the region, including two previously reported cases at Anne Hathaway Public School.

Elsewhere, two cases each are also active at Hamlet Public School and St. Ambrose Catholic Elementary School, while one case is associated with F.E. Madill Secondary School.

As students are learning remotely, there was no school exposure.

Meanwhile, no long-term home or retirement home outbreaks are active in the region.

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Three are active at unnamed workplaces, one in the community and one at a congregate living setting, unchanged from Friday. No further information has been provided.

A total of 661 cases have been reported in Perth County, with 406 in North Perth and 157 in Perth East, while 590 have been reported in Huron County, with 146 in South Huron and 109 in Huron East.

Stratford has reported at least 435 in total, while St. Marys has seen 44.

Sarnia and Lambton

Twelve new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Lambton County, local health officials said on Monday.

It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 3,410, of which 3,265 have resolved, an increase of 10 from the day before. At least 57 deaths have been reported, most recently on Sunday.

At least 88 cases are active in the region. Bluewater Health reported 12 COVID-19 patients in their care Monday, down from 12 on Sunday and a high of 19 on Friday.

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A total of 514 cases have been confirmed or are presumed to be a variant case, or have screened positive for a spike protein mutation consistent with a variant — 22 more than Sunday.

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Public Health Ontario data shows 370 of the cases have either been confirmed to be or are presumed* to be the B.1.1.7 variant.

Four cases have been confirmed to be the P.1 variant, first identified in Brazil.

Details of the remaining cases are limited.

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All residents 18 and older will be able to book an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine starting on Tuesday.

At the same time, certain high-risk health-care workers are now eligible to book their second shots.

The group includes hospital and acute care staff in front-line roles with COVID-19 patients and/or with a high risk of exposure, patient-facing health-care workers involved in the pandemic response, medical first responders, and long-term care and retirement home workers.

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People with questions can contact the health unit’s call centre at 226-254-8222.

Those eligible to get the shot are being encouraged to book appointments for the vaccine through the health unit’s website.

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The region’s two main school boards have paused the reporting of new cases during the remote learning period, so no information is available relating to school-linked cases.

One new outbreak has been declared involving an unnamed workplace. The outbreak is linked to four cases.

Two other workplace outbreaks are also active, both linked to three cases each.

Elsewhere, an outbreak is active at Afton Park Place, a long-term care home in Sarnia, linked to two resident cases, nine staff cases, and one death.

An outbreak is also active at Bluewater Health hospital in Sarnia, associated with four patient and five staff cases.

The health unit says the region’s per cent positivity was two per cent the week of May 2, about the same as the 1.9 per cent seen a week earlier.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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