Despite a provincial shutdown and vaccination rates that are increasing daily, COVID-19 cases are trending upward in Windsor-Essex.
The region's weekly case rate has grown from 86.6 to 95.9 cases per 100,000 people for the most recent seven-day period, according to data presented by the region's top doctor on Friday morning.
The local statistics, which come two weeks into a provincial stay-at-home order, remain less dire, however, than what the rest of the province has seen in the pandemic's third wave.
Dr. Wajid Ahmed, Windsor-Essex medical officer of health, said he believes the situation can be turned around with the community's cooperation.
"I don't want people to be complacent and think that things are under control. These variants [of concern] definitely have a potential to turn around and increase at a rapid rate," he said.
The region has seen a sharp rise in variants of concern this month, with nearly 34 per cent of all active cases tied to the more contagious strains. Currently, there are 485 known cases of COVID-19 active in the region, and 11 ongoing outbreaks.
The highest proportions of COVID-19 cases are among children and young adults.Those aged 20 to 29 made up 28 per cent of the cases in the last two weeks, while children and teens made up 19 per cent.
Vaccine eligibility includes new groups
Meanwhile, Ahmed announced that the vaccination eligibility is expanding to two more groups. Per a provincial directive, pregnancy has been upgraded to a "highest risk" condition, meaning those expecting a child are currently eligible for the shot.
Previously, pregnancy was considered an at-risk condition for COVID-19 and was lower on the vaccination priority scale.
The update comes amid a surge in pregnant COVID-19 hospital patients elsewhere in the province, though the health unit said earlier this week it was not aware of a similar concern locally.
Separately, the public health unit is extending eligibility to workers and students on placements at childcare facilities, Ahmed announced.
Those newly eligible to get vaccinated will be able to register on the health unit's website before the end of the day Friday, Ahmed said.
Overall, 134,424 people — or about 29.9 per cent of Windsor-Essex residents — have been vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 shot.
The health unit is also looking at how it might start vaccinating another group of essential frontline workers, those at grocery stores, Ahmed said.
New seniors' home outbreak involving variant
The health unit reported 62 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, 28 of which are close contacts of confirmed cases, 10 were community acquired, meaning there is no known transmission source, and the rest are under investigation.
There are 11 outbreaks active in Windsor-Essex, including a new outbreak at a long-term care home.
At Extendicare Southwood Lakes, three staff members are sick and the outbreak involves the B117 variant.
Ahmed declined to say whether the staff members were vaccinated but said the risk of spread is deemed to be low given the interaction and the type of exposure that occurred.
One school, Amherstburg Public School, remains in outbreak.
There are also nine outbreaks at workplaces:
Three in Leamington's agriculture sector.
One in Windsor's construction sector.
Three in Windsor's health care and social assistance sector.
One in Windsor's manufacturing sector.
One in Tecumseh's manufacturing sector.
COVID-19 in Chatham-Kent, Sarnia-Lambton
Lambton Public Health reported a dozen new COVID-19 cases on Friday. Overall, there are 79 active cases and four outbreaks are active.
There are 40 active cases in Chatham-Kent, including six announced on Friday. Two outbreaks are ongoing, one at a school and one at a workplace.