The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is reporting 49 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in our region, and another 558 cases have been confirmed though this number is an underestimate.
As the surge of the Omicron variant continues and due to changes to testing eligibility and case and contact management, the health unit is cautioning that daily confirmed case counts will continue to be much lower than the "true number" of people dealing with the illness in our community.
At this point, public health is assuming most cases are of the Omicron variant, and have virtually stopped recording those confirmed cases.
"There is a delay, and it is our understanding that because it is presumed to be dominant variant that the actual screening process won't be occurring the same way as it has in the past," said Nicole Dupuis, CEO of WECHU, during a media briefing Thursday.
"So we won't have that information to report or differentiate. "
Acting medical officer of health, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, said he's still hopeful the province will provide a metric system as a new way to track the disease within communities, since older methods such as percent positivity rates or case rates are currently unreliable.
Of the 49 hospitalized individuals locally, nine are in intensive care units in the region.
According to its website, Windsor Regional Hospital is caring for 44 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19, 25 of whom are fully vaccinated, one is partially vaccinated, and 18 are unvaccinated.
Nesathurai has stressed that while vaccines are extremely effective at preventing illness, many people who are immunocompromised or have comorbidities are more susceptible to the disease even if vaccinated, which is why preventing the spread of the virus is crucial to protecting the community.
Hospitals across the entire southwest are near or at capacity with COVID-19 patients this week.
WECHU is also reporting outbreaks at eight long-term care and retirement homes in the region:
Sun Parlor Home for Senior Citizens
The Village of Aspen lake
Seasons Royal Oak
Chateau Park Long Term Care Centre
Seasons Retirement Communities
Huron Lodge Long Term Care Home
Devonshire Retirement Residence
Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare is also under an outbreak.
Vaccine rates in Windsor-Essex
Two mass vaccinations sites opened Wednesday, one in Leamington at the Nature Fresh Farms Recreation Centre and one at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare. Dupuis said both sites had positive first-day visits.
Across Windsor-Essex, 75 per cent of the entire population is fully vaccinated — a percentage which includes those inelgibile for a vaccine.
The 18-24 age group continues to hav the lowest rate in our region with only 71.6 per cent fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 in Sarnia-Lambton, Chatham-Kent
Lambton Public Health is reporting 1,326 active COVID-19 cases in the region and 84 people have died overall due to the disease.
The region's Bluewater Hospital has been at critical capacity in recent weeks, as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb.
Chatham-Kent is reporting 163 new COVID-19 cases, with two more people hospitalized with the disease as of Thursday.
There are 33 people hospitalized at Chatham-Kent Health Alliance with 10 in critical care, officials said during a media briefing Thursday. Of those patients in critical care, nine are unvaccinated. Six people in the ICU are ventilated, and all are unvaccinated.
On Tuesday, the hospital transferred two patients to London, and one to Windsor Regional Hospital. On Wednesday, another patient was transferred to London and potentially another person will also be transferred today.
According to officials, the hospital is at a breaking point, with 78 staff members off due to positive or COVID-19 or potential exposure.
Hospitals in both regions are experiencing staffing issues due to the disease.