Sheer volume of Omicron cases made shutdown necessary: Sudbury's health unit

·5 min read

Although Ontario’s new public health measures and a return to remote learning was not what anyone wanted to hear, they are necessary, Sudbury’s health unit says in a weekly update.

“With Omicron now the dominant strain in Ontario, we are seeing case numbers surge,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe. Public Health Sudbury and Districts’ Medical Officer of Health.

“And although I am grateful that Omicron appears less likely to cause severe illness, the sheer volume of cases is already meaning more hospitalizations due to COVID-19.”

Sutcliffe said that getting vaccinated and avoiding close contact with others are the actions we can take to “blunt the increase” in cases.

“Make no mistake, these actions will help each and every one of us. Like you, I don’t expect to have to go to the Emergency Department or get admitted to the hospital — but if I do, I want to make sure they’re not too overwhelmed to look after me,” she said.

“Like you, I want to do my part to ensure people I rely on — from our municipal workers to grocery store staff and from teachers to our police services — are there to keep me, my family and my community safe and running smoothly.”

Sutcliffe added these measures “are not a forever thing.”

“They are hard, but they are needed right now. We will get through this together and look forward to much brighter days ahead,” she said.

From Dec. 30 to Jan. 5, the health unit reported 1,093 new COVID-19 cases and 548 resolved cases.

Of the new cases reported this week, 956 reside in Greater Sudbury, 45 in the Manitoulin district, 27 in Sudbury north, 47 in Sudbury west, and 18 in Sudbury east.

“Please note that confirmed cases are an underestimate of the true number of people with COVID-19 given that access to PCR testing is increasingly limited,” said the weekly update.

“Positive rapid antigen test results are not reported to Public Health.”

There is also a likelihood that people with asymptomatic infections are not seeking COVID-19 testing.

Routine screening for variants of concern was discontinued by the province at the end of December.

“However, it is likely that a large majority of the cases reported this week are the Omicron variant,” said the health unit’s weekly update.

Public Health said there were 13 COVID-19 outbreaks active during the reporting period, including five in long-term care homes, three in schools or on school buses, two in congregate living settings, and one in a hospital, a retirement home, and a community setting.

Five outbreaks were declared over in the past seven days, and there was one COVID-related death in the health unit’s service area.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been a total of 6,638 local cases of which 5,185 are resolved. Sadly, 48 people have died in our service area,” said the weekly update.

Four more people have died since the health unit release its weekly update, bringing the number to 52.

Of the 2,516 local COVID-19 cases reported since the beginning of December, 1,590 cases have been among fully vaccinated individuals.

“There have been 926 cases in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated residents (those having received only one dose),” said the update.

“During that same period, there have been 30 local hospitalizations of which 17 cases were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.”

Additionally, 13 hospitalized cases were fully vaccinated. The health unit warns that interpreting data on case counts by vaccination status can be misleading as the data is preliminary.

“Based on local data from the last 14 days, provincial data indicate that the risk of an unvaccinated individual currently being in hospital due to COVID-19 was 2.1 times that of a fully vaccinated person,” said the health unit.

“Further, their risk of currently being admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) was 5.8 times that of a fully vaccinated person.”

The local incidence rate of COVID-19 in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts over the past seven days was 549.6 new cases per 100,000 people.

“To date, a total of 390,129 doses of COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered among residents in Sudbury and districts,” said the update.

“Thus far, 169,221 people have received their first dose of vaccine and 157,595 people have been fully vaccinated. A total of 63,313 people have received a third dose, including 37.4 per cent of residents aged 18 and over.”

The health unit said that 82.4 per cent of the total population of Sudbury and districts have received their first dose and 76.8 per cent have been fully immunized.

“This means that there are over 47,000 residents who are not currently fully immunized,” said the health unit.

For more detailed information about vaccination coverage rates per age group in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts, visit www.phsd.ca/COVID-19/data.

Residents are reminded that they must stay home when sick and assume they have a COVID-19 infection.

“Provincial direction is that individuals with symptoms and anyone in the same household must isolate,” said the update.

“If you are fully vaccinated and otherwise healthy or are under 12 years of age, the isolation period is a minimum of five days. If you are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised, the isolation period is 10 days.”

PCR testing is only available to select individuals in Ontario at this time.

“Due to the current shortage of Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty vaccine, effective immediately, the Moderna Spikevax vaccine will be administered to those aged 30 and over,” said the update.

“Due to complications found in those aged 18 to 29 who received Moderna only, the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty will be available in limited supply and reserved for those 29 and younger.”

Pediatric Pfizer doses are unaffected and will continue to be provided to children aged five and 11.

“Public Health appreciates everyone’s patience and understanding while clinic staff work diligently to offer vaccinations,” said the health unit.

“Please be kind and be respectful to one another. Verbal or physical abuse of clinic staff will not be tolerated.”

For regular updates about COVID-19 testing and confirmed cases as well as outbreaks and potential exposure visit www.phsd.ca/COVID-19/data.

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

dmacdonald@postmedia.com

Twitter: @SudburyStar

Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star

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