BRUCE COUNTY – Bruce County council held its first in-person meeting since the pandemic emergency was declared 18 months ago.
On Nov. 4, members of county council met, not in the council chamber, but in a room to facilitate physical distancing as well as livestreaming the meeting.
First on the agenda was Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health (MOH), with a COVID-19 update.
“The situation remains stable, with fewer than five new cases per day,” Arra told council.
He noted there was one day where 15 cases were reported, but 14 of them were “related to a private social event.”
While there have been cases in schools and daycares, there has been no transmission within those environments. Arra said the event with 14 cases shows the efficiency of contact tracing and public health measures.
The MOH described “Delta surges” in Chatham-Kent and Sudbury.
“Our team is exploring if we can help them,” he said.
Local vaccination rates indicate 86 per cent of people in Grey-Bruce have had at least one dose of vaccine, with 83 per cent fully vaccinated.
Clinics for administering third doses have begun, with two clinics for those over 70 years old. Arra said the provincial booking system started on Nov. 6.
“We are going to use it,” he said.
He anticipates third doses of vaccine will be available for the general population in late December or early January.
Plans are also in the works to vaccinate children aged five to 11.
County Coun. Luke Charbonneau, Saugeen Shores, asked if any progress is being seen in vaccination rates since the “vaccination mandate” has been in place. He mentioned the 90 per cent figure for vaccinations, where Arra has said there’ll be herd immunity.
“Are we getting there?” he asked.
Arra said those final few percentage points are like the last 10 pounds in a weight loss program. The first 40 pounds are relatively easy, but not those last 10 pounds. Vaccination rates are going up in “small increments,” he said, adding, “the sooner we get to 90 per cent, the sooner we get to normal and lift some restrictions.”
The COVID situation in Grey-Bruce has allowed some leeway in restrictions. Where some areas have required participants in youth sports in the 12-18 age group to be vaccinated; this goes beyond provincial requirements which stipulate only people in the stands must be vaccinated. Arra said Grey-Bruce didn’t have to do this; there has been no transmission in sports.
“We have… more positive epidemiology,” he said.
He said he supports “a more measured approach” – “get vaccinated or tested,” instead of “get vaccinated or get dismissed.”
County Coun. Steve Hammell asked about the possibility of having younger teens aged 12-14 vaccinated with the child dose recommended for the five-11 age group.
Arra said at this point, he couldn’t see that happening.
County Coun. Chris Peabody expressed “solidarity with health unit staff” and said, “We’re thinking of you all,” in light of vandalism at the health unit’s headquarters.
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times