Public health officials in Windsor-Essex are defending new public health restrictions that have generated some controversy, despite the fact that the pandemic continues to escalate in the region.
Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health, presented COVID-19 data on Thursday showing that the weekly case rate has risen slightly — continuing a trend of growing case counts that began at the start of August.
The region has seen 70 new cases per day on average in the last week, he told reporters during a live YouTube broadcast.
In addition to having one of the highest COVID-19 case rates in the province, Windsor-Essex also had the highest percentage of positive tests out of all of Ontario's health units in the last week.
Windsor-Essex County Health Unit CEO Nicole Dupuis said the health unit is standing by its recommendation for schools to delay extracurricular activities until at least October, saying that despite the importance of these programs, keeping schools open has to be the top priority.
"Our region has one of the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the province and one of the lowest vaccination rates among youth in the province," she said.
Only about one in two of every eligible youth is fully vaccinated, and those 19 and under make up a quarter of all new COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks, according to the health unit.
Ahmed, who last week announced strengthened public health measures for bars and restaurants, including a 12 a.m. closing time, acknowledged that while the decision is not popular with some businesses, the current situation calls for stronger rules.
"With the data that's in front of me, if I'm not taking any action, I'm not doing my job," he said.
73 new cases, 1 death
The health unit reported a daily increase of 73 new cases on Thursday, and 546 cases are active overall.
Public health reported one new COVID-19 death, that of a man in his 50s. There are 24 people in hospital with COVID-19.
The number of outbreaks stood at 16 as of Thursday, including one at Berkshire Care Centre and a Kiwanis camp in Leamington.
The majority of the outbreaks are taking place at workplaces, including five in agricultural settings. Ahmed said most of these outbreaks are considered under control.
Here's the full list of workplace outbreaks:
Four agriculture businesses in Leamington.
One agriculture setting in Kingsville.
Six health care and social assistance workplaces in Windsor.
One health care and social assistance workplace in Kingsville.
One health care and social assistance workplace in Essex.
One manufacturing workplace in Windsor.
One in a retail setting in Windsor.
COVID-19 in Chatham-Kent, Sarnia-Lambton
Nine COVID-19 cases have been newly diagnosed in Chatham-Kent, according to the municipality's public health unit. There are 112 active cases in total.
There were also nine new cases reported in Sarnia-Lambton. The region has 18 active cases in total.