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COVID-19: 22 new cases in London-Middlesex; more people eligible for earlier second dose

A basket of needles containing Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine waits to be administered to patients at a COVID-19 clinic in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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Twenty-two new COVID-19 cases have been reported in London-Middlesex, local health officials reported on Thursday.

It’s the second day in a row that the region has seen a 22-case increase. Eight cases were reported on Tuesday and three on Monday. The region has had eight days in a row of fewer than 30 daily cases.

It brings the region’s pandemic case total to 12,402, of which 12,076 have resolved, an increase of 18 from the day before. At least 221 virus-related deaths have been reported, most recently on Saturday.

At least 103 cases are currently active in the region, the health unit says. At least 135 cases have been reported since the start of the month, compared with 694 in the first eight days of May.

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The rolling seven-day case average for London-Middlesex (June 3 to June 9) is 14. This time last month, the average was 83.

The region’s test positivity rate stands at 2.1 per cent as of the week of May 30 based on 5,363 tests, down from 3.3 per cent the week prior based on 6,111 tests.

Read more: Delta COVID-19 variant could dominate in Ontario, vaccinating high-risk areas key to avoid 4th wave: data

Of the 22 new cases Thursday, 21 are from London while one is from elsewhere in Middlesex County.

Six cases involve people 19 or younger, while six are in their 20s, five are in their 30s, one is in their 40s, and four are in their 60s. No cases involve people in their 50-59, or 70-plus.

Thirteen cases have close contact with a confirmed case as their exposure source, while seven have no known link, and one each are due to an outbreak and travel.

The number of variant cases in the region stands at 3,200. The Alpha variant (B.1.1.7), first identified in the U.K., accounts for the vast majority of them — 3,112.

At least 82 cases have been confirmed to involve the Gamma variant (P.1), first identified in Brazil. One case has also been confirmed to involve the Zeta, or P.2 variant — the other lineage identified in Brazil in October 2020.

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Three cases have been confirmed to involve the B.1.617 variant, first identified in India. One is listed as being the Delta sub-lineage (B.1.617.2) and one the Kappa sub-lineage (B.1.617.1).

(Recent modelling from the province suggests the Delta variant could become the dominant strain over the summer.)

Two cases have been confirmed to involve the Beta variant (B.1.351), first identified in South Africa.

At least 338 other cases were found to have a spike protein mutation consistent with one or more coronavirus variants. An undetermined number are currently under investigation.

Confirmed/presumed variant cases and screened mutation positive cases in London-Middlesex as of June 10, 2021. Middlesex-London Health Unit

On Friday, Ontario is set to enter the first of its three-stage reopening plan. That means limited retail shopping and patio dining among other things. More restrictions would loosen after 21 days, depending on pandemic indicators and vaccination numbers.

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Whether the timeline for the next phase changes will depend on what happens in the coming weeks, said Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott on Thursday.

“We need to see how that goes,” Elliott said. “It’s too soon to say what we might be able to do with subsequent intervals.”

While projections presented Thursday suggest already sharply lower case counts and positivity rates will continue to fall in the immediate future, concern remains about the more transmissible and possibly more dangerous Delta variant.

“It will likely be the dominant form of the virus this summer,” said Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, with the province’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. “It is critical to control the spread of this variant.”

Read more: Ontario to launch integrated employment services system due to unemployment rates

A total of 11,221 cases have been confirmed in London since the pandemic began, while 360 have been in Middlesex Centre.

Elsewhere, 333 cases have been in Strathroy-Caradoc, 155 in Thames Centre, 72 in Lucan Biddulph, 58 in Southwest Middlesex, 55 in North Middlesex, 15 in Adelaide Metcalfe and six in Newbury. At least 127 cases have pending location information.

Hospitalizations

At least 15 COVID-19 patients were listed as being in the care of London Health Sciences Centre on Thursday, a decline of one from the day before.

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At least seven are in the ICU, unchanged from the day before.

LHSC says fewer than five patients in acute care, and fewer than five patients in ICU, are from out of region.

No staff at LHSC are currently positive with COVID-19.

Read more: Ontario unlikely to balance budget by 2030 despite post-COVID pandemic growth: report

At St. Joseph’s Health Care London, meanwhile, no COVID-19 patients were reported in their care at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

One case was listed as active involving a resident of Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care. One staff case within SJHCL is also listed as active, however it’s not clear where the staff member works.

A total of 651 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in London-Middlesex during the pandemic, including 111 who have needed intensive care, the health unit says.

Institutional outbreaks

No new institutional outbreaks have been declared and none are active, the health unit says.

Health unit data shows that 852 cases and 109 deaths have been reported during the pandemic at local long-term care and retirement homes.

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Schools

No new school-related cases have been reported and none are currently active.

No school-related outbreaks are active either.

There are also no active cases tied to the local child care sector.

Students are currently in remote learning, and will remain in remote learning until the end of the school year.

The Thames Valley District School Board says it will go ahead with virtual graduation ceremonies this month for Grade 9 and 12 students.

It remains unclear whether the school board will do any in-person outdoor recognitions. Last week, the board said it was looking into the possibility, pending details from the province.

Vaccinations and Testing

As of Thursday, people 70 and older, and people who received their first vaccine dose before April 18, are now able to re-book their second dose for an earlier interval.

The date-based eligibility applies to people of any age, regardless of where they received their first dose.

Certain individuals under the age of 80 have also been able to rebook their second dose. More information can be found on the health unit’s website.

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Eligibility for first doses remains at 12-plus, with youth able to get the Pfizer shot. Residents looking for a shot are asked to visit the local vaccine booking website or call 226-289-3560. A number of local pharmacies are also continuing to offer doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Residents who received AstraZeneca first can choose either AstraZeneca, Pfizer, or Moderna as their second dose.

Those who got AstraZeneca in another setting or region and need to book a second dose in the next four weeks can do so through the aforementioned online booking portal, the health unit says.

People who want their second dose to be AstraZeneca are asked to contact the pharmacy or primary care setting where they got their initial shot.

Read more: 2nd COVID-19 shots prioritized to Ontario hot spots with high Delta variant starting June 14

The province announced Thursday that it would accelerate second doses of the vaccine for people in areas that are hot spots for the Delta variant, previously known as B.1.617.2, first identified in India.

Residents in seven designated areas — Toronto, Peel, Halton, Porcupine, Waterloo, York and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph — can re-book an earlier second dose if they received their first on or before May 9.

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Health authorities, however, said they were sticking with the 12-week interval for those who got AstraZeneca as their first dose.

The province said it would set aside higher supplies for the targeted areas and would also support mobile and pop-up clinics.

It remains to be seen how the London region may be impacted when it comes to doses.

“The main question is how aggressive will the reallocation of vaccines to the Delta hot spots be?” said Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health.

“We have millions of doses of Moderna coming in. If all of those get put towards a hot spot strategy, then I think it really does leave our region at risk of falling further behind and potentially becoming a Delta variant hot spot.

“I certainly understand the need for second doses to help prevent the Delta band expanding, and we completely support that, it’s just we are behind in first doses as well as second doses compared to communities that were previously designated hot spots.”

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The London-Middlesex region has seen one case of the Delta variant so far, and has been averaging about 4,000 doses per day, well below the maximum capacity of 10,000. About 20 per cent of vaccine appointments over the next four weeks are for second doses, according to Mackie.

(The health unit said Thursday that it was looking to bring on more health care staff to work at the clinics to help facilitate the administration of more vaccines.)

Speaking during Monday’s briefing, London Mayor Ed Holder said Premier Doug Ford was cognizant of the situation in London-Middlesex during a recent call.

Roughly 20,000 doses was diverted from the region to COVID-19 hot spots earlier in the spring during the third wave surge, Holder says.

“From my perspective, I look at this and I will take the premier’s confidence that London will not be left behind in this process,” Holder said.

“This was an important discussion I had with him, one that I have fairly regularly, and I would believe that over the next number of weeks that… London will not be disadvantaged as a result of that.”

Read more: COVID-19: MLHU issues appeal for more qualified staff for vaccine clinics

Testing continues at several locations in the region.

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

People can also be tested at MyHealth Testing Centre, at certain pharmacies, and — if a student or staff member — at Fanshawe College and Western University.

Ontario

Ontario is reporting 590 new cases of COVID-19 today and 11 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 130 new cases in Peel Region, 114 in Toronto, and 61 in Waterloo.

She says there are also 38 new cases in Hamilton and 32 in York Region.

Today’s data is based on more than 31,400 tests completed.

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The Ministry of Health says 516 people are hospitalized with the novel coronavirus _ 450 in intensive care and 291 on a ventilator.

Ontario says 182,350 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Wednesday’s report for a total of more than 10.6 million.

Friday will mark Ontario’s partial economic reopening, which will allow limited retail shopping and patio dining among other things.

More restrictions will loosen after 21 days if pandemic indicators improve and more people get vaccinated.

Officials have said, however, that they’re keeping a close eye on the spread of a more infectious variant of COVID-19.

Elgin and Oxford

One new COVID-19 case has been reported in Elgin-Oxford.

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It brings the region’s pandemic case total to 3,821, of which 3,719 have resolved, one more than the day before. At least 83 virus-related deaths have been reported during the pandemic, most recently on Tuesday.

The health unit says 19 cases are active in the region. At least 13 of them are in Woodstock. There are no patients from Elgin-Oxford hospitalized with COVID-19.

No update was available Thursday when it came to variant cases in the region. The health unit removed the data on Tuesday, saying it was reviewing the data to ensure its accuracy following a change in lab processes.

It’s unclear when the data will be re-added to the health unit’s dashboard.

As of Monday, health unit’s total figure stood at 807 — 721 involving the Alpha variant, 10 being the Gamma variant, and one confirmed to involve the Beta variant.

Seventy-five other cases screened positive for a variant-consistent spike protein mutation. An unspecified number were currently undergoing genomic analysis.

As of Thursday, SWPH says all residents 70 and older (born in 1951 or earlier), and residents who got their first dose before April 18, can re-book their second dose at an earlier interval.

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Those eligible for an earlier second dose can reschedule their second appointment via the online booking portal, or by phone at 1-800-922-0096 ext. 9.

Other certain individuals under 80 are also able to book earlier second doses by phone at 226-289-3560.

For first doses, people aged 12 and older are eligible, with youth able to get the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.

Eligible residents looking for a first dose are asked to visit the area’s vaccine booking site. The health unit still encourages people to add their names to a same-day vaccination list.

Several pharmacies in the region are also continuing to offer Pfizer and Moderna shots. Bookings must be made directly with the pharmacies.

Read more: Europe is open for travel. But tourists must navigate each country’s COVID-19 rules  

No school-related cases or outbreaks are active, and no institutional outbreaks are active in the region.

Per-municipality case counts can be found on the health unit’s dashboard.

The region’s test positivity rate stood at 0.8 per cent as of the week of May 30, down from 2.2 per cent the week before.

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Huron and Perth

Three new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Huron-Perth.

It brings the region’s pandemic case total to 1,845, an increase of just two from the day before. The health unit says one previously confirmed case was reassigned to another health unit.

Of the region’s total case count, 1,767 have resolved, an increase of one from the day before. At least 57 virus-related deaths have been reported so far, most recently on May 20.

The health unit says 21 cases are active, including eight in Huron East. One person is hospitalized. While cases have declined, health officials say they’re still seeing social gatherings as a source of transmission.

The number of variant cases and cases that have screened positive for a mutation consistent with a variant stands at 290. At least six are active, down one from the previous day.

At least 153 cases involve the Alpha variant, according to Public Health Ontario, while four involve the Gamma variant. The remaining cases are likely still under genomic analysis.

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There has been no change to the ongoing local vaccine rollout.

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People who received an mRNA vaccine who are aged 70 and older, or who got their first vaccine dose on or before April 18, are able to re-book a second dose appointment at a shortened interval.

Certain individuals younger than 80 are also able to book earlier second doses. Groups eligible for a shortened second dose interval may also book their appointment through a participating pharmacy, the health unit said.

The health unit says those who received a first dose of AstraZeneca can choose to have Pfizer or Moderna through a local clinic or pharmacy, or a second dose of AstraZeneca at a pharmacy that offers it. These doses will be given at a 12 week interval, officials say.

More information on how to book first and second doses can be found on the health unit’s website. Eligibility for first doses remains 12 and older. Youth are able to get the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.

More than 83,798 Huron County residents have gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, or roughly 69 per cent of eligible people.

Read more: Canada’s COVID-19 outlook continues to improve as cases, hospitalizations drop

No new school-related cases have been reported and seven remain active, none due to school exposure. Information can be found on the websites of the Avon-Maitland District School Board and Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board.

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One institutional outbreak is currently active involving Knollcrest Lodge in Perth East, tied to three staff cases, one more than Wednesday. Elsewhere, one outbreak is active at an unnamed workplace in the region, down two from the day before.

Case counts by municipality can be found on the health unit dashboard.

The region’s test positivity rate was 0.9 per cent as of the week of May 30, down from 1.8 per cent the week before.

Sarnia and Lambton

Four new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Lambton County.

It brings the region’s pandemic case total to 3,536, of which 3,445 have resolved. At least 61 virus-related deaths have been reported, most recently on Wednesday.

The health unit says 30 cases are active in Lambton. At least six people are in hospital with COVID-19, according to Bluewater Health, one more than the day before.

The region’s variant case count stood at 565 as of May 27. An updated tally was still not available Thursday due to ongoing network issues at the health unit that have been going on for two weeks.

It’s unclear what is causing the network issues and when officials expect to resolve them.

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Public Health Ontario data shows 404 cases involve the Alpha variant, while 17 cases have been confirmed to be the Gamma variant. The remaining cases are believed to be under genomic sequencing.

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People 70 and older, or who are turning 70 this year, are able to re-book their second dose at an earlier interval.

People who received their first dose of the vaccine, Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca, on or before April 18, are also able to re-book.

Residents who got a first dose of AstraZeneca may book a second dose with the same vaccine or with Pfizer or Moderna, the health unit says.

Individuals will be contacted via email or phone to schedule an appointment. Those not contacted are asked to call the health unit at 226-254-8222 or use the Contact Us page.

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“Vaccine call centre volumes are extremely high at this time. If you are unable to reach us, please call back and continue to check your email for options to register online,” read a health unit release.

Other certain individuals are also able to book earlier second doses.

First doses are continuing for all people aged 12 and older. Eligible residents can book appointments through the health unit’s website, and people with questions can contact the health unit’s call centre at 226-254-8222.

Some pharmacies are also continuing to offer Pfizer or Moderna shots.

Read more: COVID-19: Toronto vaccine strategy to begin targeting Delta variant hotspots

The health unit says no outbreaks are currently active in the region.

On school-related cases, the region’s main school boards have paused public reporting during remote learning, so no new data has been available.

The region’s positivity rate was 1.4 per cent the week of May 30, about the same as a week earlier.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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