No new cases, but regional numbers still high

·3 min read

The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) announced on Tuesday that there are no new cases to report but numbers are still high with 44 active cases in the region.

There are two in the Dryden/ Red Lake area, 50 in the Kenora region, and 27 in the Rainy River District. Since March, there have been a total of 223 confirmed cases in the region and four probable.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU, said in the last seven days from Jan. 4 to Jan.10, there have been 45 new cases, 18 in the Kenora area, 14 in Fort Frances, seven in Atikokan, three in the Town of Rainy River, two in the Dryden area and one in Emo.

There has been one new hospitalization and four people are currently in hospital.

Of the 45 new cases, 34 of those were close contacts of known cases, three were related to outbreaks and one was linked to travel while the source of exposure remains unknown for seven of the new cases.

Young Hoon said they have seen some transmission happen due to gathering over the holidays with an increased risk in the Rainy River District, particularly in Fort Frances. Due to the increased risk in Fort Frances, Young Hoon said they have instructed school boards to switch to virtual learning in the area.

“We determined at this point, considering the number of cases and considering the type of cases that it was useful to instruct schools and school boards in Fort Frances.”

Young Hoon adds that in their experience, schools have not been a source of high transmission but as the province is currently on lockdown, it is useful to shift to online learning.

“I am hopeful that things will improve in the Fort Frances area and then schools can move back to in-person learning.” Young Hoon said.

On Tuesday the Ontario government declared a state of emergency for all of Ontario, the second since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is issuing a stay-at-home order.

The order which will require everyone to remain at home with the exception of essential purposed such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health-care services, exercise, or essential work will take effect on Thursday at 12:01 a.m.

“I think everyone needs to take that quite seriously,” Young Hoon said. “For these types of restrictions to work, everyone needs to participate, all regions need to participate and support the orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Young Hoon said there has been a steady increase in cases over the end of December to the beginning of January but it is thankfully not as rapid as they are seeing in southern Ontario.

Young Hoon said there is a concern for Fort Frances because of some of the types of cases that they are seeing.

“For Fort Frances, there was a higher proportion of the cases that were no known exposures so they were not necessarily isolating before their infectious period and therefore could have spread to other individuals.” Young Hoon said.

Young Hoon said they are currently waiting on the results of close contacts.

As for the vaccine, Young Hoon said they are still waiting on the province to give them the number of vaccines that will be coming and the date but that they are preparing for rollout sometime in February or March.

Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times