Region on track for 900 new COVID-19 cases in January

·4 min read

CORNWALL – Should current trends continue, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region will have 900 new COVID-19 infections by the end of January.

In the first 11 days of January, the health unit added 304 positive test results, which has pushed the overall tally of infections since the pandemic began 10 months ago to 1,971 people.

Cornwall leads all other municipalities in the EOHU region with 244 active cases. Since January 1st, more than one third of all new cases have been diagnosed in the city.

South Stormont and South Glengarry have seen dramatic increases in COVID-19 infection with 32 and 68 active cases respectively.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health for the EOHU, said that three-quarters of all cases are community spread.

Most of the community spread cases have come from close contact with a home, like family members in the same house, or from people socializing.

When asked about moving from education-based enforcement to laying fines for people violating public health measures, Roumeliotis said the health unit is looking at more enforcement, but he was also waiting to see what new measures were announced by the province January 12th.

Roumeliotis presented new data to media during his January 11th briefing that the region’s test positivity rate more than doubled in the week over Christmas. On December 20th, 2020, the test positivity rate was 2.4 per cent, on December 27th, it was 5.2 per cent. The provincial average for that time period was 7.0 per cent.

As of the January 11th update from the EOHU, 18 people are hospitalized in the region, five of whom are in intensive care units. Roumeliotis said that two patients from the region are at the Montford Hospital, two are at the Ottawa Hospital, the remaining patents are in hospitals within the EOHU region.

There are 14 active outbreaks in long-term care homes and other congregate living settings like group homes. All but four of those outbreaks are staff who tested positive, not residents. An outbreak is declared if one or more people, staff or residents, test positive for the Novel Coronavirus.

Homes that have an outbreak of staff and residents include StorDunGlen Lodge and Lancaster Long Term Care.

The Community Living Dundas group home in Winchester is listed by the EOHU as having an unknown respiratory outbreak, which Roumeliotis confirmed as COVID-19. Test results for the facility are pending. Area LTC home Dundas Manor in Winchester has no current outbreak reported.

The total number of cases for South Dundas increased to 21, seven of those cases are currently active. North Dundas has 11 active cases and 39 cases total.

The reproductive rate for COVID-19 in the EOHU is 1.36. In comparison, Ottawa Public Health has a reproductive rate of 1.26, Toronto Public Health reported 1.03 as its reproductive rate.

Vaccines expected this week

Roumeliotis said that the region will receive its first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech this week.

“We expect them on Tuesday or later in the week,” he said.

The first tray of COVID-19 vaccine, which Roumeliotis expects will provide between 950 and 1150 doses, will be stored at an ultra-cold freezer in Hawkesbury.

The health unit will be immediately launching its vaccination campaign, following provincial guidelines to vaccinate long-term care staff and residents, and front line medical workers first.

There will be four-to-six initial vaccination centres under the EOHU plan. As the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has limitations due to its ultra-cold storage, that vaccine will target people who are mobile and can go to vaccination centres.

At the same time, Roumeliotis said that the region expects to have doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shortly after the Pfizer-BioN-Tech vaccine doses arrive.

He said those doses will be used to go to vaccinate LTC home residents and congregate living facilities like group homes. The Moderna vaccine is easier to transport and has a longer shelf life.

Roumeliotis said he expects to have LTC homes and other Stage One vaccinations completed by the end of February, so long as vaccine supplies remain stable.

Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader