CORNWALL – The effect of the extended public health measures that have been in place for over three weeks are being seen as COVID-19 cases decline.
The number of active cases throughout the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region has dropped to 357, down from over 500 cases a week ago.
The region continues to see new cases, but at decreased rates.
“We are now seeing a bit of a flattening of the curve,” EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said of the provincial statistics Monday. He attributed the nearly 3,600 average daily case count in Ontario to larger urban areas like Toronto, Peel and Ottawa regions.
Roumeliotis said he was “pleasantly surprised” at the reduction in local numbers and fewer hospitalizations.
The region saw 52 new cases over a three-day period (April 23-25), or fewer than 20 new cases per day.
Key indicators used by public health to track the progress of the pandemic wave also indicate a lessening of the third wave of the pandemic. The reproductive rate had dropped to 0.84 meaning that 100 active COVID-19 cases will infect 84 new people, which is a decline in community spread.
The rolling seven-day average (per 100,000 people) of cases has dropped to 85.1, which is down from 134.7 a week ago. A number between 25 and 39.9 was the indicator for Orange level restrictions under the province’s COVID-19 framework. That framework is currently suspended during Ontario’s stay-at-home order. Test positivity has dropped to 5.33 per cent, which is below the provincial average of 9.45 per cent.
Hospital statistics are still high according to Roumeliotis, but less than last week.
“Our hospitalizations are down from last week and our ICU numbers are half that,” he said. “We still have six in the ICU this week, last week it was 11.”
Ministry of Health data shows that hospital Intensive Care Units in the EOHU region are filled to 60 per cent of capacity, and the COVID-19 ICU is at 27 per cent capacity. There are 34 people in the region hospitalized. Those numbers are expected to continue to drop, as hospitalization numbers lag behind case diagnosis by between seven-and-ten days. The region’s death count increased to 100 people since the pandemic began.
South Dundas has two active cases out of 77 people who have contracted the virus. North Dundas has eight active cases, South Stormont 23, North Stormont nine, and the City of Cornwall has 117 active cases. There have been 4,307 cases in the EOHU region since the pandemic began.
Back to class, maybe
Getting kids back to in-person learning may happen as soon as the stay-at-home order is lifted. Ontario’s emergency orders expire at the end of day May 19th.
Roumeliotis said that public health officials and those with the Ministry of Education met Monday to look at what level of cases was “comfortable” to open up schools. “Certainly we’d have to be less than ‘Red’,” he said. “Potentially we are looking at the next couple of weeks at reopening.” A regional approach, like previous reopening plans, is being considered for this latest reopening. “We are looking at that as other areas may have higher numbers at that time,” Roumeliotis said.
Nearly 54,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine has been given to residents of the EOHU region, or close to one-third of all vaccination-age people. Of the 202,000 population of the region, about 170,000 are eligible as COVID-19 vaccines are not approved for use in people under age 16.
Roumeliotis also announced there will be a vaccination clinic in South Dundas located at the Morrisburg Arena on May 10th.
Six EOHU-operated clinic sites including Winchester and Cornwall continue to offer appointment-based vaccinations. There remain six pharmacy-based COVID-19 vaccination centres in the region as well. Winchester has one pharmacy, Cornwall two, that are able to administer the AstraZeneca COVIShield vaccine.
Roumeliotis said he still is pushing the province to add more pharmacy locations, but supply is the big issue. In the EOHU region, 56 pharmacies are eligible to offer pharmacy-based vaccines. The decision to add more pharmacy vaccinations is made by the provincial government and is out of the hands of EOHU administration. Pharmacies in the region that are eligible have given nearly 2,200 vaccinations since the option was available.
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader