The health unit says outbreaks at two “facilities” in Langton and Dunnville are contributing to a recent COVID-19 spike in Haldimand-Norfolk.
But health officials will not say where those outbreaks are happening.
“The decision to not publicize the names of the facilities has to do with issues of stigma and trust in the public health unit, and reaching folks and getting them to buy in to involvement with us,” said acting medical officer of health Dr. Matt Strauss.
“My interest is in having as much engagement with these institutions as possible.”
Strauss said both facilities have been in touch with the health unit and are “taking appropriate mitigation measures” to limit the spread of the virus.
“I don’t think that either facility is the whole story behind case rates going up in either community,” he said.
Late last week, Strauss identified Langton and Dunnville as “areas of greatest concern” after 24 and 33 new cases, respectively, were reported over the past two weeks.
That reflects a general worsening of the COVID-19 situation in Haldimand-Norfolk, which saw 110 new cases in the last 14 days, with 65 still active as of Monday.
Two residents have died of COVID-19 in recent days — bringing the total pandemic death toll to 50 — and an outbreak at Dunnville War Memorial Hospital has worsened, with six patients and one staff member now infected.
Some of those patients contracted the disease inside the hospital, but Strauss said the jury is still out as to how transmission occurred.
The region is adding an average of seven new cases per day, a rate that has doubled over the past 14 days. That is one indication, Strauss said, that the fourth wave is worsening as the weather cools.
“It’s happening,” he said. “It’s not a reason for panic, it’s a reason to go get vaccinated if you’re not.”
He noted that “red-alert metrics” such as infections among “high-risk” residents, hospitalizations and COVID-related deaths are down when compared to previous waves, which Strauss credited to the effectiveness and availability of vaccines.
“Cases aren’t good, but it is cases among high-risk individuals that make me break out in a cold sweat, and we haven’t so much seen that so far (in the fourth wave),” he said.
Langton and Dunnville are lagging behind other parts of the riding in terms of vaccination rate, which has allowed the virus to spread more quickly in those communities, according to epidemiologist Dr. Kate Bishop-Williams.
That prompted Strauss to again “strongly urge” unvaccinated residents, especially those aged 40 to 60, to get the shot.
“The best way to avoid serious illness is to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” he said.
And while third doses — now available locally to residents over 70, health-care workers, Indigenous adults and their households, and those who received two doses of AstraZeneca or one of Janssen — will boost recipients’ ability to ward off infection, Strauss said residents with two shots should still feel confident.
“You have powerful and persistent protection from hospitalization and death with your second shot,” he said.
“But three doses is a little more perfect, so I do encourage you to go out and get them if you qualify.”
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator