Two more Haldimand-Norfolk residents have died of COVID-19.
The most recent deaths were announced Friday and Monday, pushing the total death toll to 55.
The health unit said both patients were fully vaccinated and had “severe underlying health conditions,” though COVID-19 was ultimately determined to be the cause of death.
Seven residents have now died of COVID-19 over the past two months. Four were unvaccinated.
“The three who were vaccinated, I’m sorry to say, had other terminal conditions,” said acting medical officer of health Dr. Matt Strauss.
“Vaccines are magnificently effective. They give you a 95 per cent protection from hospitalization or death from COVID-19,” he added.
“But it’s not 100 per cent. So folks that are very vulnerable from these other conditions may still pass away.”
The deaths come as COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly in the rural community.
There were 136 active cases in Haldimand-Norfolk on Monday. That compares to 65 active cases two weeks ago.
Eleven residents are currently in hospital with COVID-19, including seven in the ICU.
Some hospitalizations are attached to the ongoing outbreak at Haldimand War Memorial Hospital in Dunnville.
The region added 212 new cases in the past two weeks, with the daily average rising from seven to 12 over that time.
“The numbers speak for themselves — there are markedly increased cases in our community,” Strauss said.
He said the upward trend mirrors that seen in other rural Ontario health units that saw relatively muted fourth waves and where case counts remained low during earlier waves.
“We likely have a little bit more dry kindling for this sort of transmission to occur,” Strauss said.
Haldimand-Norfolk recently reached the 85 per cent threshold for having the 12-plus population fully vaccinated. But that vaccination rate is not uniform throughout the two counties. The health unit says cases are rising more quickly in Delhi, Langton, Dunnville and other areas where vaccination lags.
There are currently 12 active outbreaks in Haldimand-Norfolk, including four at local schools.
St. Frances Cabrini, an elementary school in Delhi, has been closed since Nov. 17 due to what the health unit has described as “widespread transmission within the school community.”
In an update emailed to parents on Monday, the health unit said 21 students from “multiple” classes at St. Frances Cabrini have tested positive, with some showing symptoms.
The health unit has told the entire school community — including fully vaccinated staff and students — to self-isolate until Nov. 27.
Schools are proving to be local driver of COVID-19, with outbreaks also declared on two bus routes serving schools in Port Rowan, Langton and Delhi.
The rising case count has sent minor hockey teams into quarantine and forced children out of after-school programs.
Strauss said contact tracing and case management “has become challenging” due to the added strain on an already short-staffed health unit. The provincial health ministry will be lending Haldimand-Norfolk an unspecified number of contact tracers due to start later this week.
“We are very grateful to the province for that human resources support,” Strauss said.
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator