Even though Wednesday's "unprecedented" COVID-19 case count for the Sudbury Health Unit was likely the highest single-day case count in the past year, Public Health Sudbury and Districts said the numbers "are just the tip of the iceberg".
That was part of a message posted to Twitter by PHSD Wednesday evening. PHSD provided a day-by-day breakdown on case counts over the Christmas break, showing that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading locally.
"Today and in recent days, Public Health Sudbury & Districts has experienced an unprecedented increase in cases. Today, we reported 169 new cases of COVID-19, and a total of 650 active cases in our communities," said PHSD.
"Since December 24 the daily case count is as follows: Dec. 24 (96), Dec. 25 (44), Dec. 26 (37), Dec. 27 (95), Dec. 28 (78), and Dec. 29. (169)," said the health unit.
"These confirmed cases are just the tip of the iceberg. The number of confirmed cases is an underestimate of the true number of people with COVID-19 in Sudbury and districts, given that access to PCR testing is increasingly limited, increased use of rapid antigen tests and positive test results not reported to Public Health, and the likelihood that asymptomatic people with infections may not seek testing," the PHSD statement continued.
PHSD said it is responding to the challenge with a new approach to protect the most vulnerable citizens in the community. One significant change is that access to PCR tests — the test that requires several hours of lab analysis — will be limited going forward. More weight will be put on the quicker rapid antigen test process.
"Anyone who tests positive on a rapid antigen test should consider themselves to have COVID-19. A confirmatory PCR test is not required while access to PCR testing remains limited," said PHSD.
Public health said its goal is to protect vulnerable people at highest risk of severe outcomes, to protect public health and health system capacity, and to ensure maintenance of critical infrastructure.
Public health is also encouraging anyone with a positive test to self-isolate for 10 days, either from the time of first symptoms, or from the date of the positive test, regardless of vaccination status.
One of the reasons for this is the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant, said a recent statement from Public Health Ontario.
"There is strong evidence that Omicron is much more transmissible than Delta (e.g., higher secondary household attack rate and community transmission). It is estimated that each Omicron case is infecting 7.7 times more individuals than Delta in Ontario."
The health unit advises that anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or if they suspect they have been exposed there are actions they can take to protect themselves. They should also notify household members and other close contacts in their everyday lives, said PHSD.
Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com