Public Health Sudbury and Districts is warning people that the local COVID-19 risk level could increase to high in the coming weeks, following a two-week upward trend of infection in the region.
“Following a two-week uptick of COVID-19 trends, it’s vitally important that people take extra steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health for the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts.
According to Sutcliffe, the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron is now the dominant strain across the province, with emerging data suggesting it is more transmissible than previous versions of the virus.
“There is also evidence of increased reinfection among those who were infected with earlier strains of Omicron,” said Sutcliffe. “For all these reasons, I am reminding people to use as many layers of personal protection as possible to protect yourself, your close ones, and our health care system.”
In the last week, Public Health has reported an average of 62 new COVID-19 cases each day, compared to 14 cases per day in June.
Currently, there are 698 known active cases across the region—a high that hasn’t been reported since May 11, 2022.
“These numbers are a gross underestimation of the actual cases as they include only those who are eligible for PCR testing under current provincial guidelines,” the organization said in a release Friday.
A similar increase has also been reported in the number of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in the past week. Currently, there are 63 patients hospitalized with a confirmed case of the virus, a significant increase from the 13 cases reported at the beginning of the month.
There has also been a significant increase in the number of outbreaks of the virus reported across the region.
There are currently 12 active outbreaks in the Sudbury-Manitoulin region. Of those, seven were declared in the past week.
Since vaccination efforts began, 82.1 per cent of the region’s population have received at least two shots or are fully vaccinated. Vaccination efforts continue this week.
The Manitoulin Health Centre, meanwhile, has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at its Little Current site, just days after implementing COVID policies for visitors.
Under the Public Health Authority, an outbreak is declared when two or more patients test positive for the virus.
“Effective immediately, visitation at the Little Current site in-patient unit will be suspended with the exception of immediate family for palliative patients, for minor patients (under the age of 18) and obstetrics,” the organization said in a release Friday. “The Emergency Department remains open for emergencies only.”
The updated COVID-19 measures, which were implemented July 18 under the guidance of the Ministry of Health, maintained much of the same precautions that have been in place throughout the pandemic, including mandatory masking, self-screening, hand hygiene, and restricting eating in patient areas.
As a result of the outbreak, as well as increased circulation of the virus in the community, the organization said it will resume active screening at the entrances of their Little Current and Mindemoya sites.
Visitors who are permitted during the outbreak will be required to wear a mask at all times. MHC will have masks available and will be asking those wearing cloth masks to replace them before entering.
“The staff and Management of MHC wish to remind the public to remain calm,” the organization said. “We must be diligent about following the guidelines as set out by Public Health. If you are eligible for a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit the Public Health Sudbury & Districts for local vaccine clinic information.”
To limit the spread and impact of COVID-19 in Ontario, the province announced this week that a supply of Moderna’s vaccine for children aged six months to under five years old was being distributed in the coming days, and appointments could be booked starting next Thursday.
Stickers, superhero backdrops and screens are among the tools Ontario public health units will be using at COVID-19 vaccine clinics for babies and preschoolers when shots become.
Public health units said Friday they were still sorting out the finer details for the rollout, but had specific kid-friendly plans in the works.
In York Region, the public health unit said separate, smaller clinics are being prepared for the youngest age group to make families “as comfortable as possible,” with longer appointment times, private spaces, accommodations for breastfeeding parents and areas for strollers.
The clinics will also have colouring sheets and stickers on hand, some decorated with cartoons reminding children they are “‘beary’ brave ... for getting their vaccine,” spokeswoman Jennifer Mitchell wrote in an email.
“Every effort will be made to reduce anxiety and needle-related fears for children,” she said, noting that staff will also be trained with techniques to distract and support young kids.
Families are also encouraged to bring comfort items like blankets, stuffed animals and tablets.
Niagara Region Public Health said it would be trying to make the vaccination experience for young kids “as positive as possible” by allowing extra time for appointments, giving each child a small toy to keep them distracted during their shot, and having tablets with videos available for them to watch.
“Afterwards, they get a small gift to take home, and are encouraged to pose for photos on a superhero backdrop to emphasize they’ve made a heroic act to help fight this pandemic,” the health unit said.
- with files from Canadian Press
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Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star