Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
SIMCOE-MUSKOKA — The first case of the B.1.617 variant from India has reached the region, as the health unit reports 66 other COVID cases today — none of them in Muskoka.
Dr. Charles Gardner says Public Health Ontario (PHO) informed him on the weekend that a single case of the fast-spreading B.1.617 virus had arrived.
But in a media briefing today, Gardner told reporters PHO provided no further information.
That’s significant as since Sunday all 121 local cases this week have been variants of concern (VOC). Last week that number was 95 per cent.
Among the 3,088 VOCs to date, 2,416 are UK variants, 29 are tied to Brazil and 7 are linked to South Africa. A further 638 are awaiting confirmation of the exact variant.
There are 955 active VOCs.
So, are today’s 66 cases (half under age 40) signs that the 175,824 vaccines that have been injected and a third lockdown are working?
Not with Simcoe-Muskoka surpassing 10,000 cases on the weekend and as of today with 10,154.
With test numbers down, but positivity rates up the full effects of emergency measures are indeterminate mere days from April’s end on Friday.
Certainly there’s no doubt that nearing the halfway point of the current six-week shutdown 617 new cases last week were better than the 714 incurred the week before.
But with 1,327 active cases — an increase of over the 1,141 last Tuesday — the message is clearly still not getting through to everyone it should.
Not with all the cases now VOCs.
And with 52 residents in hospital today (5 more than last week) — 13 of them are in ICU.
Or that of those hospitalized patients are getting younger: 14 are under age 60, 4 are in their 40s (with 3 in ICU), 9 are in their 50s (2 in ICU), 17 are in their 60s (4 in ICU) and 21 are 70+ (4 in ICU).
Nor could 4 more deaths this week — including a woman in Gravenhurst who was 65-79 — and all of whom weren’t immunized conclude that.
They bring Simcoe-Muskoka’s death toll to 222 — 4 of them in Muskoka.
The 30 people who have now died in April make this the third highest month for deceased after 88 in January and 32 in February. In March there were 12.
Gardner also noted that pregnant women have now been prioritized for vaccination.
And that another “education and enforcement” blitz will take region-wide Friday and Saturday, April 30-May 1.
As well, cases are rising the most among youth aged 10-19.
But that positivity rates were lower in Muskoka the past week, dropping to 3.2 per cent from 6.1 the week prior. During the same time comparative figures show Simcoe going up to 6.4 per cent from 5.4 the week before. Ontario’s rate this week is 8.1 per cent.
The region’s medical officer of health said the health unit is targeting it vaccine program at a hot spot in Bradford-West Gwillimbury and will include pop-ups and more pharmacies.
He said more Pfizer vaccine is on its way here in early May for those hot spots and for the rest of the region later in that month. Previous requests for more supply had been met by provincial health officials.
But he didn’t say if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to arrive in Canada this week will make its way to Simcoe-Muskoka any time soon.
Gardner concluded by saying that while there was a “profound” drop in COVID cases last summer “to as low at 3 a week,” they could still spike back up next fall.
And that the possibility of vaccines becoming an annual booster shot aren’t out of the question. He said it’s always prudent for governments to stockpile just in case — so they aren’t caught short as this time.
The threat of an “endemic,” he said, is ever present in every country.
Finally, Gardner said 95 per cent of migrant workers at the Holland Marsh have successfully been vaccinated.
HEALTH UNIT HIGHLIGHTS:
- 10,154 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Simcoe Muskoka since COVID-19 was first identified in Canada.
- There have been 121 new cases reported to the health unit for the current week. There were 636 new cases reported to the health unit last week (week of April 18th), 11% lower than the 714 cases reported for the week of April 11th.
- There have been 20 COVID-19 deaths so far in April. In March, 12 Simcoe Muskoka residents died from COVID-19.
- To date 2,416 local cases have tested positive for the COVID-19 variant of concern UK B.1.1.7 (UK), 29 cases have tested positive for the P.1 variant of concern (Brazil), 5 cases have tested positive for the B.1.351 variant of concern (South Africa) and an additional 638 cases have screened positive (awaiting confirmatory testing).
- Over 191,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Simcoe Muskoka, including doses administered by local pharmacies. Over 175,800 individuals living in Simcoe Muskoka have received their first dose of vaccine, which represents over 28% of the total population.
IN OTHER COVID NEWS …
- Public Health Ontario reports: Ontario cases today 3,265 – 29 deaths (3,510-24); Simcoe-Muskoka 61 (79); North Bay-Parry Sound 4 (2); Toronto 1,044 (1,015), York 453 (391) Peel 673 (909).
- Ontario has asked Ottawa to help out with a new paid sick days program that would be run by the federal government. The province would kick in up to $1,000 week. The current Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) program offers $500 a week ($450 after taxes, which is less than Ontario’s minimum wage). The government are still negotiating.
- For years Newfoundlanders coming to Ontario for work was laughed at, but now that they’re health workers, the joke’s on Ontario, which has had to call on the Canadian Armed Forces (CAM) again to dig it out of another stormy situation after already helping last year in emergency pandemic efforts.
- Quebec woman’s death from AstraZeneca vaccine blood clot downplayed as rare instance by health officials.
Americans told once they have vaccine being outdoors a safe distance it’s OK to go without mask.
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