Windsor-Essex is experiencing its deadliest month of the pandemic in January but the recent trend of fewer new COVID-19 cases is continuing, according to the public health unit.
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit expected the pandemic to worsen around the holiday period and into the new year, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said Friday, but not to the extent that it did.
So far in January, 174 deaths have been announced by the health unit, more than had occurred throughout all of 2020.
"It is unfortunate that we have lost so many lives to COVID in our region in such a short period of time," he said.
"That's, I think, the hardest part for me to look back and see ... why these people died. With all these high rates in the community, it's what happens."
Downward trend continues
During his weekly epidemiological report on Friday, Ahmed said the local coronavirus case rate went down "dramatically" for the most recent week.
It dropped from about 300 new cases weekly per 100,000 population to about 175.
"We were way above the average for both Ontario and Southwestern Ontario but now we're starting to see a decline overall and everywhere and our Windsor-Essex case counts are now coming closer to the provincial and the Southwestern Ontario average," Ahmed said.
The percentage of people being tested who test positive is also declining, and rates of hospitalization are stabilizing but remain high, Ahmed said.
Despite the latest data, Ahmed remains cautious about the downward trend. He said it's been rewarding to see cases go down and he credits the lockdown measures.
"But again, we're still not there yet," he said.
He said if the current trend continues, by the time the provincial stay-home order ends — tentatively set for Feb. 9 — the region will meet the criteria for reduced restrictions under the red zone tier, but that doesn't necessarily mean the province will ease the lockdown.
Region surpasses 12,000 cases
Since March, more than 12,000 cases of the virus have been diagnosed in the region. More than 90 per cent are currently resolved, and the active case count has dropped by more than 2,000 in about two weeks.
On Friday, the region added 41 new cases of the virus, and saw an increase of seven deaths. There have been 311 deaths recorded since the pandemic began.
The region is also seeing a decline in the number of people getting tested, Ahmed said.
The recent drop in demand has prompted Windsor Regional Hospital to cut back hours at one of its testing sites.
44 outbreaks remain active
Of the 41 new cases announced Friday, 10 are linked to outbreaks, seven were community acquired, 10 are close contacts of confirmed cases. The rest are under investigation.
Ahmed said there are 82 people hospitalized and nine in intensive care.
There are also 44 outbreaks active in the region.
Three outbreaks are active at Windsor Regional Hospital and two at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare.
Outbreaks are active at 22 workplaces:
Six in Leamington's agricultural sector.
Five in Kingsville's agricultural sector.
One in Leamington's food and beverage sector
Three in Windsor's health care and social assistance sector.
One in Kingsville's health care and social assistance sector.
One in Tecumseh's health care and social assistance sector.
Three in Windsor's manufacturing sector.
One in a retail setting in Essex.
One in a retail setting in Lakeshore.
There are 17 active outbreaks at long-term care and retirement facilities:
Franklin Gardens in Leamington, with eight resident cases and two staff case
Heron Terrace in Windsor, with two resident cases and one staff case.
Chartwell Leamington, with two resident cases and two staff case.
Regency Park in Windsor, with 16 resident cases and nine staff cases.
Chartwell Royal Marquis in Windsor, with three resident cases and one staff case.
Devonshire Retirement Residence in Windsor, with 49 resident cases and eight staff cases.
Rosewood Erie Glen in Leamington, with 42 resident cases and eight staff cases.
Augustine Villas in Kingsville, with 65 resident and 18 staff cases.
Sunrise Assisted Living of Windsor, with 15 resident cases and eight staff cases.
Huron Lodge in Windsor, with 47 resident cases and 26 staff cases.
Sun Parlor Home in Leamington, with two resident cases and 13 staff cases.
Banwell Gardens Care Centre in Windsor, with 115 resident cases and 65 staff cases.
The Shoreview at Riverside in Windsor, with 30 resident cases and 16 staff cases.
Extendicare Tecumseh, with 90 resident cases and 57 staff cases.
Berkshire Care Centre in Windsor, with 99 resident and 62 staff cases.
The Village at St. Clair in Windsor, with 169 resident cases and 136 staff cases.
Village of Aspen Lake in Tecumseh, with 65 resident cases and 33 staff cases.