For weeks, Haldimand-Norfolk has kept the fourth wave of COVID-19 at bay. But a recent rise in cases suggests the virus may be making a comeback.
The local health unit reported 42 new cases between the two counties for the week ending Oct. 31, a notable bump over 31 cases the previous week.
The uptick left the region with 41 active cases as of Tuesday and a rolling average of nearly five new cases per day.
Health unit epidemiologist Kate Bishop-Williams said the fourth wave — largely driven by the Delta variant — is marked by inconsistent “ebbs and flows of heightened case counts” in Ontario’s 34 health units, rather than the provincewide rise and fall in cases seen in the first three waves.
“While it is unclear if this increased case count and evidence of higher transmission will continue, it is certainly concerning in the short term,” Bishop-Williams said of the recent surge in Haldimand-Norfolk.
One thing driving the spread of the virus, Bishop-Williams said, is that people have been getting out more.
“We do see evidence of increased population movement with individuals linked to more people during their period of communicability,” she said.
Mingling with others, especially unmasked and indoors at dinners and parties, can increase the number of people who may be infected by a COVID-positive resident who is unknowingly contagious.
“It continues to be of upmost importance that individuals are practising safe public health measures (and) getting their complete series of COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible,” Bishop-Williams said.
The COVID-related death toll in Haldimand-Norfolk sits at 49 after a recent death announced on Friday.
The health unit said the resident was “fully vaccinated with severe underlying health conditions” but offered no more details, citing privacy.
Haldimand-Norfolk saw the fifth-highest per capita rate of new cases in the province last week, an unenviable ranking Bishop-Williams said was unsurprising given the recent increase in virus transmission.
Cases are climbing as the vaccination rate in Haldimand-Norfolk slows down.
Last week saw fewer than 1,000 doses administered for the first time since February.
Bishop-Williams said a slowdown is to be expected now that 83.6 per cent of residents 12 and over are fully vaccinated, while 87 per cent have received at least one dose.
Persuading those still on the fence to get the shot takes time, she said.
“Just as the case counts have become hyper-localized, so to must our efforts to reach the yet-to-be-vaccinated populations,” Bishop-Williams said, adding the health unit’s goal is still to inoculate 90 per cent of the population against the virus.
In hopes of picking up the pace, the province is sending the GO-VAXX mobile vaccine clinic to Norfolk County this week.
Residents can visit the bus from noon to 6 p.m. at the Langton arena on Wednesday and the Culver Street parking lot across from Argyle Street in Simcoe on Thursday.
First and second shots of the Pfizer vaccine are available and no appointment is needed.
Meanwhile, three people from Six Nations of the Grand River are in hospital with COVID-19, among 12 active cases on the territory. Both Ohsweken Public Health and the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit report that roughly seven in 10 new COVID-19 cases are among the unvaccinated.
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator