COVID-19 variants on the rise in EOHU Region

·3 min read

CORNWALL – COVID-19 infection numbers have been trending upward in some parts of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region as vaccination clinics continue to immunize residents.

On March 15th, the provincial government launched its vaccination online registration system. Techinical issues plagued the first day of registration.

EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said the remaining Phase One vaccinations were proceeding at its six clinics in the region including in Winchester. He said he expected Phase One to be completed soon so that the next, and broader phase of innoculations could begin.

The health unit has been contacting people aged 80 and older to schedule their vaccinations, and has also encouraged people in that age group to book online.

No exact timeline has been given on when the EOHU will move to people in the 70-79 year age group. Some health units are undergoing a pilot project for vaccinations in a pharmacy for those age 60-64, but the EOHU is not in that project. As of Tuesday, 16,151 doses of vaccine have been administered by the health unit.

The increasing COVID-19 numbers are, due in part to the spread of variants. Roumeliotis said that when an outbreak occurred, like at the St. Albert Cheese Cooperative last month where three people were identified as having a variant, their proceedures for contact tracing and isolation minimized the spread.

He told media on March 15th that provincially 40 per cent of all new COVID-19 positivity is a variant of concern – most being the UK variant.

Of the active cases in the EOHU region, 39 are presumed to be the UK variant, one the South African variant. Roumeliotis said he was concerned as the percentage of new cases presumed to be a variant strain were increasing, going from 13 per cent two weeks ago to 28 per cent now.

The City of Cornwall has become a hotspot of new COVID-19 infections with most of the new cases being discovered in that city. More than half of the region’s 165 active cases are in Cornwall (87).

As of the March 16th health unit update, there are seven active cases in South Dundas, five in North Dundas, 13 in South Stormont, and four in North Stormont.

Roumeliotis initially said that there was one school still in a declared outbreak but later clarified that the outbreak was over. There are 14 schools with one COVID-19 positive individual identified, 12 students and two staff. One daycare located in a school also has a single COVID-19 positive case.

Outbreaks continue in long-term care and retirement homes. The Woodland Villa LTC home in Long Sault still has one resident and three staff currently identified as having the Novel Coronavirus. A total of 50 residents and 19 staff tested positive in the nearly three month long outbreak. In all, there are eight facility outbreaks.

The EOHU region remains at the Orange-Restrict level for COVID-19 restrictions under the provincial reopening framework. Neighbouring Leeds-Grenville-Lanark District Health Unit moved from Green to Yellow-Protect on March 15th.

The EOHU region could move into the Red-Control level should numbers continue to increase .

The rolling seven-day average of new infections per 100,000 people was 38.4. Red-Control level begins at 40 and higher.

Intensive care occupancy is at 60 per cent. There are 15 people hospitalized with COVID-19, three of which are in intensive care. The EOHU updates regional numbers weekdays excluding statutory holidays.

Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader