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Three people have died and 52 others have tested positive for the coronavirus in London and Middlesex, the 22nd day in a row that the region has reported a COVID-19-related death, local health officials reported on Friday.
The update brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 5,347, of which 3,648 people have recovered, an increase of 54 from the day before.
At least 164 people have died during the pandemic, including at least 58 since the month began.
The three deaths reported Friday involved a woman in her 70s who was not associated with a seniors’ facility and two people in their 90s, a man and woman, who were both linked to long-term care.
In addition to being the deadliest month the pandemic has seen, January has also recorded the most new coronavirus cases with 1,977. December, which stands as the second-worst month for cases, saw 1,723.
As of Friday, at least 1,535 cases are active in the region.
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Of the 52 new cases Friday, 45 are from London, two each are from Middlesex Centre and Strathroy-Caradoc and one is from Thames Centre. Two are pending a location.
Those infected skew younger, with people under 30 making up some 46 per cent of cases. Ten are aged 19 or younger, 14 are in their 20s, five are in their 30s, six are in their 40s, seven are in their 50s, three each are in their 60s and 70s, and four are 80 or older.
Exposure source information is only available for six cases. Four are due to outbreaks and two have no known link. The remaining 46 have their source listed as pending.
During Thursday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, said the recent drop in new cases suggests the region’s second wave has peaked.
“It doesn’t mean it’s the last peak that we’ll see,” he stressed. “Hopefully this decline is something we can continue in the weeks and months to come.”
“There could be any number of reasons why we might see case counts go back up again. If we see behaviour being relaxed too quickly, we could see a jump in cases. If we do see U.K. variant spreading more rapidly here, we could see a jump in cases.”
The region has, so far, recorded one confirmed case of the U.K. variant B.1.1.7. Researchers have yet to determine whether any of the new variants, including those detected in South Africa and Brazil, are more deadly, but the U.K. strain is known to spread much faster.
“We’re all very much hoping that people can keep up the good behaviour that has brought cases down and we can keep seeing things improve across the community.”
Read more: COVID-19 variants could be spreading across Canada. Are labs doing enough to detect them?
The region’s seven-day case average stands at 68.57 as of Friday, down from 69.7 Thursday. The 14-day average stands at 87.5, down from 90.28 on Thursday.
The cumulative incidence rate for London-Middlesex is 1,053 cases per 100,000 people compared to Ontario’s 1,665.
London has recorded at least 4,623 cases during the pandemic, followed by Middlesex Centre with 236.
Due to Middlesex Centre’s lower population, its caseload has hit harder. The municipality’s incidence rate is 1,335 cases per 100,000 people to London’s 1,142.
Elsewhere, Strathroy-Caradoc has reported 187 cases, Thames Centre 89, Lucan Biddulph 34, Southwest Middlesex 34, North Middlesex 28, Adelaide Metcalfe 13 and Newbury two. At least 101 cases are pending location data.
The number of COVID-19 inpatients hospitalized at London Health Sciences Centre numbered 22 as of Thursday, unchanged from the day before.
Eight patients are in critical or intensive care, a decrease of two from Thursday.
At the same time, active staff cases within LHSC numbered 23 Friday, up one from the day before.
Read more: Ex-London Health Sciences Centre CEO travelled to Florida, Michigan, statement of defence says
St. Joseph’s Hospital remains free of any COVID-19 patients.
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However, St. Joseph’s Health Care London reported late Thursday that at least 10 staff members within the organization were currently infected.
All but one are linked to an outbreak at Mount Hope for Long-Term Care, which is also tied to two active resident cases and five deaths.
The health unit says 328 people have been hospitalized due to the virus, with 65 in intensive care.
No new institutional outbreaks have been declared or deemed resolved, the health unit says, but a workplace outbreak at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre appears to have grown.
Provincial data shows there were at least four active cases among the jail’s inmate population as of Jan. 20, an increase of three from the day before. There were no active inmate cases on Jan. 18.
An outbreak was declared at the facility on Monday after four staff there tested positive.
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One outbreak was declared over on Thursday at Strathmere Lodge.
At least 14 outbreaks remain active at local long-term care and retirement homes in London and Middlesex. How many cases and deaths are linked to all of the outbreaks is not clear.
Active outbreaks at seniors' facilities as declared on:
Three outbreaks are also still active within London Health Sciences Centre.
No new cases or deaths have been reported between them.
One outbreak is located at University Hospital. Declared on Jan. 15 in its emergency department, it’s linked to eight staff cases.
Meantime, two outbreaks are active at Victoria Hospital, declared Jan. 6 in B41 Antenatal and Jan. 12 in the C6-100-Geriatric Behavioural Unit. Both are linked to fewer than five patient and staff cases and no deaths.
A fourth hospital outbreak is also active in the region, located at Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital in 2 South. A case tally was not immediately available.
No new school cases have been reported by local school boards or by the health unit.
One school-associated case is active in the region. It was reported on Jan. 16 and is linked to Clarke Road Secondary School.
The health unit says at least 178 cases have been reported during the pandemic involving elementary and secondary schools and child-care centres.
Students in the London region have been learning remotely and won’t be back in the classroom until at least Feb. 11.
Read more: Feb. 11 is earliest date London, Ont., area students will return to school
Mark Fisher, director of education for the Thames Valley District School Board, and Linda Staudt, director of education for the London District Catholic School Board, confirmed the timeframe to 980 CFPL on Thursday.
Staudt said the board had been told remote learning would continue “until this stay-at-home emergency order is no longer in effect.”
The order, launched Jan. 14, is to remain in place until at least Feb. 10.
“It’s our hope that sometime in that first week of February, we would find out if, in fact, we can go back,” Staudt said.
While the majority of students are learning remotely, students with special education needs who are unable to participate in remote learning have been back in schools.
Fisher says roughly 1,100 students are attending in-person school within the public board, while Staudt estimated the number at 300 in the Catholic board.
Vaccinations and testing
All long-term care home residents in the region will be vaccinated by the end of the weekend, local health officials stress.
That’s despite shipment delays from Pfizer and a shrinking local supply of doses — issues that prompted the city’s vaccination clinic to be temporarily shut down.
The closure of the clinic, located at the Western Fair District Agriplex with the city’s field hospital, begins Friday and will last at least two weeks.
Read more: Ontario long-term care residents describe devastating impact of isolation during COVID-19 pandemic
“The facilities we’ll be vaccinating between (Thursday) and Monday include the following: Henley Place, Craigwiel Gardens, Chartwell Parkhill, Kensington Village, The Village of Glendale Crossing, Westmount Gardens, Babcock Community Care, and PeopleCare Oakcrossing,” Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, said during Thursday’s briefing.
“The other positive part of this story is that we’re now in our 11th day after vaccinating at the Oneida long-term care facility, and that means that the people vaccinated there are now becoming immune.
“It’s around day eight that immunity starts to develop and by around day 12 to 14, you’ve got almost 90 per cent and potentially over 90 per cent protection against the virus.”
Mackie says health unit teams are planning to begin vaccinations at high-risk retirement homes on Monday once long-term care residents have all been given a first dose, but says those plans are tentative depending on available supply.
“If we have some indication between now and Monday that there will be further delays in the provincial supply, we may not be able to go out into those homes. Otherwise, we do plan to at this point.”
Mackie says there are still several weeks of work ahead to figure out which groups come next in the vaccination queue, including when health-care workers more broadly can expect shots. He says the health unit expects direction on the matter will come from the province.
Read more: Advisory group says speeding up vaccine rollout to Ontario LTC homes would prevent deaths, cases
According to the health unit, 3.6 per cent of tests were coming back positive as of the week of Jan. 10, down from 6.1 per cent the week prior. Updated numbers are expected Wednesday.
At least 12,103 tests were conducted the week of Jan. 10, down from 12,901 a week earlier.
The city’s two main COVID-19 assessment centres have seen lower turnout this week compared to last.
The Carling Heights assessment centre reported 458 visits on Monday, 349 on Tuesday, 305 on Wednesday and 272 on Thursday, while Oakridge Arena reported 347, 327, 283 and 221.
Carling Heights had reported between 385 and 513 visits between Jan. 11 and 15, and between 475 and 537 the week of Jan. 4 to 8. Oakridge Arena reported between 306 and 369 visits per day over both weeks.
The reason for the slump late this week was not immediately available. Both centres are continuing to operate by appointment only.
Ontario is reporting 2,662 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and 87 more deaths related to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said there are 779 new cases in Toronto, 542 in Peel Region and 228 in York Region.
She said there are also 128 more cases in Waterloo Region and 118 in Windsor-Essex County.
More than 71,000 tests have been completed in Ontario since the last daily update.
The province is also reporting that 11,168 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since its last daily update.
A total of 264,985 vaccine doses have been administered in Ontario so far.
Read more: Ontario reports 87 new COVID-19-related deaths, 2,662 more cases
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Ottawa is sending two mobile health units to the Greater Toronto Area to help address the strain COVID-19 is placing on hospitals.
The units will bring an additional 200 hospital beds to the area, to help free up space for people who need intensive care, and will provide medical equipment and supplies.
Ontario’s hospitals have been struggling with capacity challenges for weeks because of surging COVID-19 cases, especially in hotspots.
On Monday, the province said a new hospital set to open in Vaughan, Ont., will be used to help relieve the capacity crunch.
Premier Doug Ford said some patients from overcrowded Greater Toronto Area hospitals would be transferred to Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital when it opens on Feb. 7.
— With files from Jacquelyn LeBel and The Canadian Press
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