With local COVID-19 case rates more than double what they were last week, the medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex is warning that it's a "very critical time" in the fight against the pandemic.
"The cases are on the rise and it's among the unvaccinated mainly, so we need to increase our vaccination rate ... and those who are vaccinated, it's not a free pass either," said Dr. Wajid Ahmed, who delivered an update live on YouTube Friday morning.
During the broadcast, the chair of the local board of health announced that Ahmed will be stepping down as of Oct. 1 to become the associate chief medical officer of health for Ontario.
The Windsor-Essex Public Health Unit (WECHU) reported 69 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, along with the death of a woman in her 50s who had COVID-19.
Ahmed also delivered his weekly epidemiological summary, providing data that demonstrated how the pandemic is rapidly escalating locally.
The weekly region's case rate per 100,000 people — a key metric — rose from 37.3 to 69.4 since last Thursday.
"This is a huge increase," Ahmed said.
Windsor-Essex currently has the highest percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive out of all public health units across the province. For the most recent seven-day period, the average was 5.1 per cent.
"More specifically, the per cent positivity is very high among the 18 to 34 age band, which is close to 12 to 13 per cent," he said.
In total, 353 cases are active throughout Windsor-Essex, along with eight outbreaks, as the highly contagious Delta variant gains a foothold in the region.
Asked whether he was considering new public health restrictions to curb case counts, Ahmed said health officials are always reviewing COVID-19 case data and discussions are ongoing.
"There's a much broader discussion that's happening at other tables as well, that what do we need to as a province, what do we need to do as a region to have some policies in place or some control measures in place," he said.
More than 350 active cases
There are eight ongoing outbreaks, six of which are occurring at workplaces.
One outbreak outbreak involves a wedding in Kingsville and Tecumseh, and the Village at St. Clair long-term care home is also in outbreak, with three staff members affected.
Throughout Windsor-Essex, seven people are in hospital with COVID-19. Windsor Regional Hospital data show five of the six COVID-19 patients in the hospital's care were not vaccinated.
According to the health unit, 70.5 per cent of Windsor-Essex residents who are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines have gotten both shots, and the percentage of people that have gotten at least one dose stands at 78 per cent.
The health unit announced Thursday that the mass vaccination site in Leamington, at the Nature Fresh Farms Recreation Centre, is closing as of Saturday. The last remaining mass vaccination site is located at the former Sears location at Devonshire Mall in Windsor.
COVID-19 in Chatham-Kent, Sarnia-Lambton
Chatham-Kent Public Health reported Friday an increase of six new COVID-19 cases. The region's overall active case count stands at 33.
Sarnia-Lambton saw two new COVID-19 cases. Nineteen are considered active overall in the area.