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The Middlesex-London region has surpassed the 9,000 COVID-19 case mark with the latest update from health officials.
On Friday, the Middlesex-London Health Unit reported 105 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total case count to 9,007.
At least 193 deaths have been reported to date, most recently on Wednesday.
As of Friday, at least 1,175 cases remain active in the region.
Since the month began, London and Middlesex has recorded at least 1,224 cases. A record 176 cases were reported on Wednesday by the health unit.
The local seven-day rolling case average stands at 133 as of Thursday.
The local test positivity rate stood at 7.7 per cent as of April 4, up from 5.9 the week prior, according to the most recent figures. The tally is based on 10,328 tests compared to 10,527 a week earlier. The provincial rate for the week of April 4 was 8.3 per cent.
Read more: Ontario government asks other provinces, territories to send nurses as COVID-19 cases surge
Of the 105 new cases, 96 are from London while, one is in Strathroy-Caradoc, two in Thames Centre, and five cases are pending location data.
Infections are spread out among the age brackets tracked by the health unit, however younger people make up much of the cases. At least 42 per cent of Friday’s cases are under 30, and 67 per cent are under 40.
At least 15 cases involve people 19 or younger; 30 are in their 20s; 26 are in their 30s; 10 each are in their 40s and 50s; nine are in their 60s; four in their 70s; and zero are 80 or older.
Read more: Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health calls current COVID-19 situation ‘dire’
The number of variant cases (presumed and confirmed via genomic analysis) in London-Middlesex stands at 873, an increase of 73 from the previous day.
At least 871 of those cases are the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K., while at least two are the P.1 variant, detected in Brazil, an increase of 73, respectively, from Thursday.
Meanwhile, the number of cases that have screened positive for a spike protein mutation common to a variant, but which have not yet undergone genomic analysis, stands at 192.
It should be noted that the health unit recently changed how it counts variant cases to bring local reporting in line with the province.
Officials are now adding cases that are presumed to be the B.1.1.7 variant into a single tally, along with cases which have undergone genomic analysis and confirmed to involve a variant.
A note on the process of confirming variant cases:
- Confirming a variant is a multi-step process. Positive COVID-19 cases undergo initial screening for spike protein mutations common to variants (N501Y, E484K, and K417N), and if found to have one or more, undergo further genomic analysis to determine the specific variant involved () — a process that can take up to two weeks.
- Since last month, however, the province has stopped conducting genomic analysis on cases which screen positive for just the N501Y mutation. Now, those cases are presumed to involve the variant, as that variant has only been associated with the N501Y mutation.
- Cases that screen positive for either the E484K or K417N mutations are still being sent for genomic analysis as they have been associated with the B.1.351 and P.1 variants, first detected in South Africa and Brazil, respectively.
Of the 187 cases that have screened positive for a mutation, but which have not had their genomes analyzed, at least 61 have screened positive for the E484K mutation.
Another 181 have screened positive for the N501Y mutation, but because the E484K mutation has not been ruled out for any of them, they have not been added to the region’s separate variant case tally.
The health unit says people under 30 account for roughly 60 per cent of all cases in the region which have either been labelled a variant, or have screened positive for a spike protein mutation.
Variant and screened mutation cases comprised roughly 52.1 per cent of infections seen during the week of March 28. The tally stood at 38.5 per cent as of the week of April 4, however figures from that week are still being finalized.
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It’s been one week since the province entered a stay-at-home order to curb rapidly rising case rates.
Dr. Alex Summers, the region’s associate medical officer of health, said Thursday that any sign of the stay-at-home order’s impacts on local and provincial case rates won’t be seen for at least another week or two.
“This is because it can be up to two weeks after someone has been exposed to COVID-19 for them to become symptomatic and be diagnosed with that illness. We need to have that two-week window in place to fully see the effect of that stay-at-home order,” he said.
“We experienced that back in late December and early January. Two to three weeks after that stay-at-home order, we did see case numbers plateau and begin to fall,” he continued.
Summers added that the health unit, in partnership with city bylaw enforcement and police, continues to follow up with any complaints when it comes to order violations by businesses or members of the public.
During the briefing, Mayor Ed Holder was asked whether any progress had come in the push to designate the city’s N6A postal code, or any area of the city, as a COVID-19 hot spot by the province, opening it up to more resources and vaccine doses.
N6A encompasses part of Western University’s campus, off-campus student neighbourhoods, and about half of Old North, as well as much of the downtown core and Richmond Row.
The area saw a roughly 30 per cent test positivity rate as of April 3, the most of any area of the province at that time, according to provincial data made public by the non-profit health research firm ICES. Newer data has not been released yet. Western has also seen multiple outbreaks in its student residences.
Holder replied that the Greater Toronto Area has been the main focus of the province given the region’s population size and density, but he notes officials in the Ford government have “heard very clearly” that London also be recognized as a hot spot.
“By the way, it’s not a designation we wear with any pride, it’s a tragedy,” Holder said.
“As vaccines become available, it’s my belief that will have some real impact on us being declared a hot spot as needed.”
The region’s surge in cases in recent weeks has prompted changes to the way the health unit contact traces lower-risk cases.
As previously reported, lower-risk cases are being asked to assist the health unit in notifying their close contacts of their exposure and providing directions on how to quarantine.
Higher-risk cases, such as those in primary care settings and riskier workplaces, are still being fully investigated, health officials say.
Read more: Public health confirms COVID-19 community outbreak in eastern Grey County
At least 7,997 cases have been confirmed in the City of London since the pandemic began, while 311 have been in Middlesex Centre.
Elsewhere, 271 cases have been in Strathroy-Caradoc, 113 in Thames Centre, 60 in Lucan-Biddulph, 52 in North Middlesex, 51 in Southwest Middlesex, 14 in Adelaide Metcalfe and two in Newbury.
At least 136 cases have pending location information.
At least 65 COVID-19 inpatients were in the care of London Health Sciences Centre as of noon Friday, according to an organization spokesperson. The tally surpasses the previous record of 57 set on Dec. 7, according to provincial data.
In an email, the LHSC spokesperson said 22 of the 29 critical/ICU patients reported Thursday were from outside of the London-Middlesex region, and had been transferred to LHSC. Of the 36 inpatients not in critical or intensive care, five were from outside of the region, they said.
Nine staff at LHSC are currently infected with COVID-19, unchanged from the day before.
“One of the objectives of all of the work that we’ve done as a community over the last year has been to ensure that our hospital system has not been overwhelmed. In addition, of course, to ensure that we don’t have as many people as could have been, die from this illness,” said Dr. Summers.
“So when we hear of those numbers, it’s a significant concern, and as we heard on Monday from Dr. (Adam) Dukelow at London Health Sciences Centre, they are unfortunately having to put contingency plans into place to support both admissions from our community as well as from others across our province.”
During his opening remarks, London Mayor Ed Holder implored people to follow pandemic guidelines to ease rising hospitalization rates.
“We only have so many beds, so many doctors, so many resources and so many ICU spaces available. COVID doesn’t care about our capacity, and our capacity is not unlimited,” he said.
“We’re nearing the point across Ontario where medical professionals may well be placed in the unthinkable position of having to choose who receives such care and who does not. Can you imagine having to make that kind of decision? Can you imagine being told the decision went against your loved one?”
Hospitals across Ontario have been ramping down non-essential and non-urgent medical procedures this week to ensure they have the capacity to care for COVID-19 patients as infections keep rising, including among younger Ontarians.
This week, the province set new records with the number of patients hospitalized and in intensive care units due to COVID-19.
Updated numbers weren’t immediately available, but earlier this week, Dr. Adam Dukelow, chief medical officer with LHSC, said surgical capacity had been reduced by at least 30 per cent at both University and Victoria hospitals.
Read more: ‘Sicker and younger’: Toronto ICU copes with pressure during 3rd wave of COVID
St. Joseph’s Health Care London (SJHCL) listed no COVID-19 patients in the care of St. Joseph’s Hospital, however, at least 13 cases are active within the organization as a whole — a decline of 11 from the previous day.
There are two patient and four staff cases within SJHCL linked to an outbreak at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building, and seven staff cases that are not outbreak-related.
At least 439 people in London-Middlesex have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 during the pandemic, including 71 in intensive care, the health unit says.
No new institutional outbreaks have been declared or resolved.
Two outbreaks remain active at health-care institutions, both at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building (G2, G5, and H2).
St. Joseph’s Health Care London says at least two patient cases and four staff cases are currently active as a result of the outbreak.
No outbreaks are currently active at any local long-term care or retirement home. Outbreaks at those facilities have accounted for roughly 793 of the region’s cases and 106 of its deaths.
Read more: Ontario NDP leader asks auditor general to review how COVID-19 ‘hot spots’ were chosen by province
A non-institutional workplace outbreak remains active at Cargill’s London meat processing facility.
The outbreak had been linked to as many as 87 cases as of Thursday, an increase of five from the previous update on Tuesday. The surge in cases has prompted production at the plant to be halted temporarily.
The company had no definite timeline for when it expected the plant to open. The facility employs around 900 people and processes some 80,000 chickens per day.
“An entire department has been placed into quarantine because of the transmission we’ve seen amongst staff within that department,” said Dr. Summers, the region’s associate medical officer of health.
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Elsewhere, an outbreak is also still active at the city’s jail.
The Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre outbreak has seen active cases ebb and flow since it was declared on Jan. 18.
The tally rose to nine on March 31, fell slightly, and then rose to 13 on April 11 where it stood as of Tuesday, the most recent data available from the province.
At least four staff cases were active at the jail as of earlier this week, according to a spokesperson with the Ministry of the Solicitor General.
Overall, the jail outbreak has been linked to at least 49 inmate and 34 staff cases. Up until it was declared in January, EMDC had only seen two reported inmate cases.
Details on the Western University outbreaks can be found below.
At least eight new COVID-19 cases have been reported associated with local schools, according to the health unit and local school boards.
One case each has been reported at the following schools:
At least 35 cases that are associated with schools are currently active in London and Middlesex. A full list can be found on the MLHU website.
Outbreaks are also still active involving:
At least 324 cases involving elementary and secondary schools in the region have been reported during the pandemic.
Schools are on spring break right now, but will move to online learning for the foreseeable future starting next week.
“We are committed to providing all students with a high-quality remote learning experience while schools are closed,” said Mark Fisher, director of education for the Thames Valley District School Board, in a statement Thursday.
“No student will be disadvantaged by this interruption to in-person learning.”
Read more: Virtual graduations all but certain, return to classrooms unclear: TVDSB
Meanwhile, at least 44 cases involving child care/early years settings have been confirmed during the pandemic, an increase of five from the day before.
At least 13 cases are active, associated with five facilities.
Five of the cases are associated with Faith Day Nursery in London, which declared an outbreak on Tuesday, and three cases are associated with Kodorable Child Care Centre in London, which declared an outbreak on April 8. Three cases are associated with Stoneybrook Early Childhood Learning Centre-London Bridge.
Elsewhere, one case each is associated with London French Day Care Centre Inc. in London and La Ribambelle – St. Jeanne D’Arc.
In post-secondary, outbreaks remain active in eight student residences linked to Western University.
Together, they’re associated with at least 138 cases as of Monday, with 44 alone located at Saugeen-Maitland Hall, Western University’s largest student residence.
The health unit did not have an updated tally on Thursday, but Summers said few additional cases have been reported as students have largely returned home following the completion of the semester.
Read more: Why are COVID-19 cases quickly rising among Canadian university students?
“As a result, with increasing distance and a reduction in the amount of people in a congregate living setting, the numbers are declining quite a bit,” he said.
“As we know, that drove quite a bit of activity within that N6A postal code, and so it is certainly good news to see that those numbers are reducing.”
In all, seven of Western’s eight first-year student residences have active outbreaks.
Outbreaks are active at the following residence halls (case tallies as of Monday):
Vaccinations and Testing
More than 108,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered locally.
Local health officials continue to push for anyone 60 or older to book an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Eligibility for the age group opened up on Tuesday, the same day the health unit also expanded booking slots for far as four weeks out.
Dr. Summers estimates that roughly 10,000 appointment slots have been utilized by those in the 60 and over crowd, and more slots become available every day.
Three mass vaccination clinics are currently in operation in the London-Middlesex region. The health unit plans to open a fourth, but current vaccine supply levels have delayed its start. The three clinics currently operating are running well below their maximum capacity.
More information on eligibility can be found on the MLHU’s website. Eligible residents are asked to visit the local vaccine booking website or call 226-289-3560 to book an appointment at one of the region’s three mass vaccination clinics. Online appointments are encouraged due to the high call volume.
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During Thursday’s briefing, Summers said that the clinic running at the North London Optimist Community Centre (NLOCC), which up until now has been doling out Moderna shots, has had to pivot to offering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a result of major Moderna shipment delays.
“The Moderna deliveries are somewhat unpredictable, so we do try and schedule appointments around a window of delivery so that we don’t have to cancel appointments,” Summers said.
“We did, though, transition NLOCC to Pfizer mainly because our supply of Pfizer was higher. We’re trying to use as many appointment slots at one go as we can, and we will modify the type of vaccine delivered at any of our mass (vaccination) clinics as necessary in order to fully get that vaccine out the door.”
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are currently being administered at the three mass vaccination clinics.
Summers said it was a concern of the health unit that the London-Middlesex region may see reductions in vaccine supply as the province shifts focus, and vaccine resources, to designated hot spots.
“We continue to highlight our numbers here. They’ve certainly been high. And I know that the province is aware of the high amount of activity that we have seen here,” he said.
“We, too, have a desperate need for as much vaccine as we can get. We send it out the door as quickly as we receive it, we are working with primary care, we are supporting pharmacies in their rollout, and we hope that we can see as much vaccine as possible.”
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Summers stressed that those eligible to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot should get vaccinated at a participating pharmacy. At least 26 were giving the shot just in the city of London as of earlier this week.
A full list of participating pharmacies can be found on the province’s website. Residents are asked to book a spot with the pharmacies themselves.
Meanwhile, the region’s two main assessment centres, at Carling Heights and Oakridge Arena, remain open and operating by appointment.
The local test positivity rate stood at 7.7 per cent as of the week of April 4, up from 5.9 the week prior, according to the most recent figures.
Ontario is reporting 4,812 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, marking another single-day high for the second day in a row. The provincial total now stands at 408,383.
Friday’s case count surpassed Thursday’s which held the previous record of 4,736 new cases as the province continues to grapple with surging COVID-19 hospitalizations. In the past seven days, five of those saw daily case numbers above 4,000.
According to Friday’s report, 1,469 cases were recorded in Toronto, 851 in Peel Region, 491 in York Region, 366 in Ottawa, 268 in Durham Region and 204 in Hamilton.
Read more: Ontario reports more than 4,800 new COVID-19 cases, setting another single-day record
All other local public health units reported fewer than 200 new cases in the provincial report.
The death toll in the province has risen to 7,664 as 25 more deaths were recorded.
Ontario reported a record 1,955 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 (up by 23 from the previous day) with an all-time high of 701 patients in intensive care units (up by 42) and 480 patients in ICUs on a ventilator (up by 38).
Active cases in Ontario now stand at 39,977 — up from the previous day when it was at 38,341. At the peak of the second wave coronavirus surge in January, active cases hit just above 30,000.
Numbers for Southwestern Public Health, Huron Perth Public Health, and Lambton Public Health will be updated shortly.
— With files from Matthew Trevithick, Gabby Rodrigues, and The Canadian PressView link »
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