Vaccine rates the key to reopening

·2 min read

The percentage of Chatham-Kent residents receiving a vaccine continues to be the main factor for any future loosening of restrictions.

“That’s a very important thing going forward and it provides an incentive to our community to roll up your sleeves,” says Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby.

It won’t be the only consideration though. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams has indicated he wants to see cases drop under 1,000 before lifting the lockdown. “So I believe we’re a ways off yet,” says Colby on that front.

Colby says it’s unlikely the next reopening will be conducted like previous ones. “The health unit by health unit approach was not particularly successful. Although there was a lot of good sense into its design I don’t think the experiment worked particularly well. That’s why we’re in a province-wide lockdown,” he says of the province’s prior approach of having all 34 public health units in their own colour zone.

“I think they’re going to redesign that from the ground up, perhaps looking at this regionally rather than health unit by health unit,” says Colby.

As weather improves questions have also risen about small outdoor gatherings, such as backyard barbeques, being allowed. Colby says again it all comes down to the vaccines, referencing a statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying Canada wouldn’t be easing restrictions until 75 per cent of the country had gotten their first dose.

“I think it will be sometime in the summer before we can achieve the kind of numbers that the prime minister is talking about,” says Colby.

The vaccine effort in Chatham-Kent has seen 38,651 people receive their first dose and 1,687 have two jabs as of May 14. Last week the urban-Indigenous population, high-risk health care workers and patients on dialysis became eligible for second doses.

There have also been 350 temporary foreign workers vaccinated across 10 farms. The health unit will be out at farms all this week and plans to offer every migrant worker a vaccine by the end of May.

“The major factor is not our capacity to immunize people, it’s the supply of vaccines,” says Colby on the pace of vaccines. “If we got a huge increase in our vaccine supply we could accomplish that relatively quickly. We have to work with what we’re able to get.”

May 14 there were six new COVID cases in Chatham-Kent and six recoveries, leaving the active case count at 36. “I would like to see it dropping below that but it’s been stubbornly hanging in there,” says Colby of the stagnant mid-30s case count.

Chatham-Kent has one workplace outbreak ongoing and an active outbreak at the hospital.

Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent

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