COVID-19 enforcement efforts at bars, restaurants and other businesses will be ramping up amid a sharp rise in cases in the fourth wave of the pandemic, the medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex announced Friday.
Dr. Wajid Ahmed said investigations have revealed that many businesses are not complying with the rules around masking, capacity limits and social distancing.
"As much as ... I want to everyone to stay open, we cannot ignore what is currently legislated," he said.
Ahmed presented data showing there have been dozens of cases linked to spread in bars, strip clubs and restaurants. Three weddings have resulted in 124 cases.
"Weddings have proven to be the major super-spreader event this month," he said.
Ahmed didn't rule out putting new restrictions in place if cases continue to grow. He called the current increase in cases unprecedented and unexpected.
The case rate for the last seven days has risen to an average of 86.8 cases per 100,000 people. Earlier in the pandemic, that rate would have put the region past the criteria for "red zone" restrictions — which was the final stage before a lockdown.
Ahmed said case levels are approaching that seen in the peak of the third wave. But unlike back in the spring, businesses are open, and the highly contagious Delta variant is the main source of infections, he said.
Most cases among under 40
Most of those getting infected are younger, and the majority are unvaccinated. Over 70 per cent of cases in the last two weeks were among those under 40 — age groups with lower vaccine coverage, Ahmed said.
Ahmed said the health unit is working with other public health units and levels of government on a vaccination verification system. Ahmed said he'd welcome it if a centralized system is announced provincially, but if not, the health units could work on a regional rollout.
The health unit, which announced a vaccination policy for its own staff on Friday, is encouraging employers to establish vaccination requirements for patrons and staff.
The health unit has also set up a program where employers can get a mobile clinic set up at the office on request.
The health unit reported an increase of 70 new cases on Friday.
There are 472 active COVID-19 cases, compared with about 50 at the beginning of August.
The number of people ending up in hospital with COVID-19 is rising. It currently stands at 15, five of whom are in ICU.
There are 10 outbreaks in the region, all of which involve the delta variant. One outbreak is associated with a wedding in Kingsville and Tecumseh, while nine workplaces are in outbreak:
One construction workplace in Windsor.
One food and beverage workplace in Leamington.
Three health care and social assistance workplaces in Windsor.
Two manufacturing workplaces in Windsor.
One professional services workplace n Windsor.
The WECHU has recently issued several COVID-19 exposure notices. Anyone who attended the Urban Field House in Emeryville on Aug. 15 has been asked to tested for COVID-19 immediately and self-monitor for symptoms for the two weeks following that date.
A notice is also in effect for Wild Child Nightlife in Windsor, with the affected time period ranging from 10:30 p.m on Aug. 14 to to 2:30 a.m.
COVID-19 in Chatham-Kent, Sarnia-Lambton
In Sarnia-Lambton, one person has newly tested positive and one new death attributed to COVID-19 has been announced. Lambton Public Health says there are 20 active cases overall.
Chatham-Kent Public Health reported three new cases Friday, and 45 are active overall.