(Christopher Ensing/CBC - image credit)
Windsor-Essex is making continued progress against the spread of COVID-19, but the region's top public health official is cautioning that case counts are still higher than they were in the peak of the first wave.
"I don't want people to get different messages," said Dr. Wajid Ahmed, the region's medical officer of health.
"We have to look at the reality as well, that this is what we're dealing with."
Ahmed presented his weekly epidemiological report at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's daily briefing on Friday morning.
According to the health unit's figures, the region has a weekly average of 46.1 new cases per day per 100,000 people. The region meets the criteria to be downgraded from a lockdown to the red "control" zone of restrictions, Ahmed said.
The province is expected to make an announcement later on Friday. If the region moves to the second highest tier of restrictions, establishments such as restaurants and hair salons would be allowed to reopen at limited capacity after two months of closure.
But the decision comes a day after a more transmissible COVID-19 variant was discovered in the region for the first time.
"This is something we are aware of, we know the province is also interested in looking at that data and making sure that the variant of concern is not posing significant risk in our community," Ahmed said.
Case rates dropping
The region is seeing "some bending" of the epidemic curve, Ahmed said.
While Windsor-Essex once had the highest COVID-19 rates per population, the region has dropped back to seventh place, and local case rates are decreasing more sharply than the provincial average.
For the week ending on Feb. 6, 2.6 per cent of tests came back positive, and 8,905 tests were completed that week.
Hospitalizations are down as well. While the rate of new deaths is decreasing, the death toll is still rising on most days.
"It's not something we like to do. It's not something the community should see," Ahmed said.
About one in five cases being diagnosed are not linked to a known source, signalling that the virus is still spreading in the community.
"It's important for people when they're out to be mindful of that community transmission and take appropriate precautions, Ahmed said.
21 new cases on Friday
The health unit reported 21 new cases of the virus on Friday, along with the deaths of a man in his 90s who lived in a retirement home and a man in his 70s.
Of the new cases, two are outbreak related, three were community acquired, two are close contacts of confirmed cases and 14 are under investigation. In total, 352 deaths have occurred in the community since the start of the pandemic last year.
There are 263 active cases of COVID-19. Forty people are in hospital with COVID-19, and 15 are in intensive care.
There are 19 active outbreaks in the community, down from a peak of over 50 last month.
They include outbreaks at Windsor Regional Hospital, Kensington at Court Retirement Residence and the Downtown Mission.
Outbreaks are active at eight workplaces:
Two in Leamington's agricultural sector.
One in Tecumseh's health care and social assistance sector
Two in Windsor's manufacturing sector.
Two in Tecumseh's manufacturing sector.
One in a personal service setting in Windsor.
There are eight active outbreaks at long-term care and retirement facilities:
Franklin Gardens in Leamington, with 38 resident cases and 14 staff cases.
Heron Terrace in Windsor, with two resident cases and two staff cases.
Regency Park in Windsor, with 23 resident cases and 15 staff cases.
Devonshire Retirement Residence in Windsor, with 48 resident cases and nine staff cases.
Rosewood Erie Glen in Leamington, with 42 resident cases and 10 staff cases.
Augustine Villas in Kingsville, with 66 resident cases and 20 staff cases.
Sunrise Assisted Living of Windsor, with 15 resident cases and nine staff cases.
The Village at St. Clair in Windsor, with 175 resident cases and 139 staff cases.
COVID-19 in Sarnia-Lambton, Chatham-Kent
Chatham-Kent Public Health reported two new COVID-19 cases on Friday. There are 115 active cases in the municipality and eight people have died due to COVID-19.
In Sarnia-Lambton, there were five new cases of the virus announced. In total, there are 61 active cases and 45 people have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.