Pembroke – An astonishing 655 active cases of COVID-19 are being reported in Renfrew County and District as the third calendar year of the pandemic begins, and mortality numbers climbed with three deaths reported in the last week.
However, the number of active cases may actually be higher since the province has brought in a new criteria on just who gets a test and there are testing capacity challenges across the province.
“Testing capacity is not keeping up and we are focusing on testing to limit outbreaks, mostly in hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes,” Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health for the Renfrew County District Health Unit (RCDHU), said Tuesday. “The top priority is to keep these services functioning with adequate staff.”
With the existing testing, in just a few short weeks the number of cases has skyrocketed. In mid-December, just before Christmas, there were 56 active cases in Renfrew County, which at the time seemed high compared to what had been very few cases in November. However, those numbers are now but a fraction of the cases which have been recorded in recent days, and the numbers keep going up in large increments.
On December 31, there were 332 active cases. By Monday, January 3, the number was up to 559 active cases and on Tuesday, the number jumped again to 655 active cases.
Although cases are being resolved as new cases were confirmed, Tuesday showed there were 117 cases reported that day. The day before (following the weekend) there were 281 new cases reported. However, the number may actually be higher.
The death rate due to COVID has also increased in the district. In mid-December there were 11 deaths attributed to the virus since the pandemic began. By last week the number had climbed to 13 and on Tuesday an additional death was recorded bringing the total to 14.
Dr. Cushman confirmed on Tuesday there are 10 people in hospital with the virus and two in the ICU. This is believed to be a record high number of people in hospital with the virus for the local area. The other 643 confirmed individuals are self isolating.
The health unit has been reporting the total cases since the pandemic began in March 2020, 22 months ago. It is an incredibly fluid situation with the Omicron variant and one which has been changing dramatically in recent days. As of Tuesday’s reporting, there were 1,769 cases reported in the county and district since the pandemic began.
Testing has been an issue not only locally but across the province. As per the provincial directive of December 31, 2021, symptomatic testing is available for high-risk individuals and individuals who work in high-risk settings. Individuals with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are now presumed positive and should follow isolation and/or self-monitoring guidelines. Testing for asymptomatic contacts is generally no longer recommended. Those who are positive for COVID should isolate for five days if they are fully vaccinated and until their symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours (48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms). Those who are not fully vaccinated should isolate for 10 days. All household members need to self-isolate while the case is self-isolating. Anyone who has been exposed to someone who tested positive must self monitor if fully vaccinated and isolate if either non-vaccinated or immunocompromised.
Like other provinces, Ontario no longer has the capacity to test everyone who has symptoms or has been in contact with someone else with COVID. As a result, health officials in Canada are warning the true number of COVID cases is likely far higher than what is being reported and verified by testing.
It has been a dramatic beginning for 2022. In December the county and district had only just reached the 1,000 mark of total confirmed infections. That number appears to be ready to double before mid-January if the current trend continues.
The latest numbers from the health unit, which are a weekly covid case summary update, showed an incidence rate of198.9 per 100,000 individuals.
Two area hospitals have outbreaks. Both the Pembroke Regional Hospital and the Renfrew Victoria Hospital have reported outbreaks and the health unit also reported several schools had outbreaks which were discovered at the time of the Christmas break.
Case numbers are higher now in January 2022 than ever during the pandemic and during the time Ontario was in total lockdown last year.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader