Windsor-Essex public health warns its on the verge of collapse as COVID-19 burden worsens

·4 min read

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported 62 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday as officials warned that sharply increasing case numbers are bringing the public health system to the brink of collapse.

The unit's capacity is being stretched to the limit as it also faces a range of outbreaks in schools, long-term care centres, and now hospitals —and tries to monitor a high number of possible contacts from them.

"We will be on the verge of collapsing the public health capacity and also the acute care system capacity now that we have two outbreaks in the hospital system," said Medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed in reference to outbreaks declared at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare and Windsor Regional Hospital.

The health unit is dealing with 14 outbreaks at workplaces, schools and health care facilities.

WECHU CEO Theresa Marentette said nurses who are doing contact tracing are following about 1,000 contacts.

"Every outbreak that we report, every case is a further stretch of our resources," she said.

There is also demand placed on public health resources due to cases in schools, Marentette said. There are 25 schools where cohorts of students have been dismissed due to COVID-19, she said.

Ahmed said the region is at risk of entering the strongest stage of restrictions — a lockdown — though there is no specific threshold for entering that stage.

He said he hopes to avoid further restrictions but action may be needed if cases continue to increase.

7 days a week

The health unit has been running seven days a week since March, adding new staff and trying to use every resource possible -- including from the province -- to handle the pandemic, Marentette said.

"All of that is helping but it continues to be a lot," she said."Sixty-two new cases in a day is incredible."

The new cases of COVID-19 reported Tuesday bring the active case total in Windsor-Essex to 427.

The health unit also announced the death of a man in his 90s who was living at a long-term care home. He is the 80th person in Windsor-Essex to die of COVID-19 since March.

The figures come a day after Windsor-Essex entered the red "control" zone, the second highest tier in the province's COVID-19 restrictions framework.

Testing capacity

Despite the surge in new cases, Dr. Ahmed said that, according to the most recent epidemiological data, those tested for COVID-19 are receiving their results in about 24 to 48 hours.

Windsor Regional Hospital's Ouellette Assessment Centre, one of two testing sites in the region, has a capacity of nearly 500 tests on weekdays and just over 300 daily on weekends. That capacity has been increased in the last two days by 66 swabs on weekdays and about 40 on Saturdays and Sundays, the hospital said in a statement.

17 cases connected to Hôtel-Dieu outbreak

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 outbreak at Windsor's Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare has grown from five to 17 cases, hospital CEO Janice Kaffer told reporters Tuesday.

Five of those who tested positive for the novel coronavirus are patients, while 12 are staff members. All of the cases are connected to an outbreak that was declared on Sunday in a section of the hospital's rehab unit.

Kaffer said test results for all patients affected have come back and hospital officials don't anticipate more cases.

Windsor Mosque closed

Windsor Mosque announced Tuesday it is closed temporarily due to a COVID-19 case.

The Windsor Islamic Association said in a Facebook post Monday night that someone who attended prayer Friday at the mosque on 1320 Northwood St. has tested positive for the disease.

While the mosque is closed, the association said it will undergo a "thorough disinfection."

Anyone who attended prayer at the mosque is asked to monitor for symptoms.

Snapshot of COVID-19 cases in Windsor-Essex

Of the 62 new cases announced region-wide Tuesday, 16 are close contacts of a confirmed case, 11 are local health-care workers, six are community acquired, one is an agri-farm worker and 27 are still under investigation. Overall in Windsor-Essex, there are seven workplace outbreaks:

  • Three in Leamington's agriculture sector.

  • One in Lakeshore's health care and social assistance sector.

  • One in a Leamington place of worship.

  • One in Leamington's finance and insurance sector.

  • One in Windsor's manufacturing sector.

Two community outbreaks are still active: one at Victoria Manor Supportive Living in Windsor and another at Riverplace Residence in Windsor.

Two schools — Frank W. Begley Public School and W. J. Langlois Catholic Elementary School — also remain in outbreak.

There are five long-term care and retirement homes in outbreak:

  • Village of Aspen Lake in Tecumseh with one staff case.

  • Leamington Mennonite in Leamington with one staff case.

  • Chartwell Royal Oak Residence in Kingsville with one staff case.

  • Riverside place in Windsor with 17 resident cases and three staff cases.

  • Iler Lodge in Essex with 18 resident cases and three staff cases.