Southwestern Public Health to announce new COVID-19 restrictions within a week

File photo. COVID-19 testing. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

Restrictions are expected to be finalized in the next week for Elgin, Oxford and St. Thomas as the region battles a rising tide of COVID-19 cases in the community.

Areas within Southwestern Public Health’s jurisdiction have some of the highest case counts per population in Ontario as well as some of the lowest rates of vaccination.

SWPH medical officer of health Dr. Joyce Lock made the announcement on Tuesday, though she did not provide any specifics about upcoming restrictions.

“The high (case) numbers mean illness for individuals as well as disruptions to our businesses, education and service delivery,” she said.

“In partnership with our epidemiologist and senior leaders, I am putting a plan in place for further measures designed to address the escalating count in our SWPH region.”

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Public Health Ontario reports that SWPH has the third-highest rate of recent cases (within the past two weeks) of all health units in the province as of Nov. 15 at 127.5 cases per 100,000 population.

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Only Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, which neighbours SWPH, and Public Health Sudbury and Districts have higher case rates, at 128.3 per 100,000 and 202.7 per 100,000 population, respectively.

However, when looking specifically at Aylmer, SWPH reports an active case rate of 547.3 per 100,000 population as of Tuesday.

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According to Ontario research organization ICES, the postal code with the lowest rate of vaccination was N5H, which covers Aylmer, Ont. Only 52.58 per cent of the entire population — which includes those under 12 not yet eligible for vaccination — has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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The second-lowest rate of vaccination was in the N0J postal code, which covers an area that falls under more than one health unit’s jurisdiction but includes the rural areas surrounding Tillsonburg, Woodstock and Ingersoll which are all under SWPH.

Within the N0J postal code, according to ICES, only 59.5 per cent of the entire population has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

By comparison, Public Health Ontario reports that across the province, 78.3 per cent of the entire population has had at least one dose of vaccine.

Last Friday, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital announced it was at capacity to care for critically ill patients while the hospital on a whole was operating above capacity.

As of Monday, LHSC had accepted fewer than five critical care patient transfers from St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital. LHSC chief clinical officer Carol Young-Ritchie said the hospital network is prepared to take more patients if needed.

Until restrictions are in place, SWPH is encouraging residents to avoid large gatherings and follow public health guidelines.

As of Tuesday, 161 cases were active in the region, the highest amount since May.

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with files from Global News’ Sawyer Bogdan

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