Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
SIMCOE-MUSKOKA — As Ontario pauses first doses of AstraZeneca, 4 new Muskoka COVID cases today are in addition to an outbreak of 10 cases at one accommodation site in the district, says the health unit.
Dr. Charles Gardner wouldn’t say where the outbreak is, only that “I can confirm that it is an accommodation location.”
This after numerous community reports came to us from Bala the past week of a large number of cases there at the staff residence of Rosseau’s Marriott hotel, as reported yesterday by MuskokaTODAY.com.
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you where that (outbreak) is,” Gardner told us in response to a question in a media briefing this afternoon.
“We don’t divulge that kind of information. The only time we would so is if it was a public institution, like one of the schools or long-term care facilities, a retirement home or hospital.
“So I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to give you more information about the name, and the location and such.”
He added that “outbreaks continue until 14 days after the last exposure or onset of the last case.
“So, while you’re continuing to get cases happening the outbreak persists.”
The health unit website notes the outbreak began April 29 and the isolation period would thus end in two days — on Thursday, May 13.
As well there have been work outbreaks at a waste reduction facility in Muskoka and 3 staff cases at Muskoka Shores LTC in Gravenhurst.
Gardner, medical officer of health for the region, did report 40 new cases the past 24 hours within the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
Among the four Muskoka cases two each were in Bracebridge and Huntsville:
- Bracebridge woman, 18-34, under investigation, reported May 10, with a first episode May 2
- Bracebridge woman, 65-79, close contact, reported May 9, first episode May 5
- Huntsville man, 18-34, close contact, reported May 9, first episode May 5
- Huntsville woman, 45-64, community acquired, reported May 9, first episode May 1
Meanwhile, after Simcoe-Muskoka hit its “peak” of 715 cases the week after April 11, week on week cases have steadily gone down, said Gardner.
He says last week’s 439 cases were a 21 per cent drop from 558 a week prior.
So far this week the health unit reports 71 cases Sunday and Monday.
Still, as of today there have been 11,101 cases since the pandemic began.
The province’s rate of reduction is slightly more than 18 per cent during the same time.
Muskoka has dropped to a greater degree than Simcoe at 37 per cent as opposed to Simcoe at close to 21 per cent.
Active cases have also dropped to 927 from 1,327 two weeks ago when Gardner last updated media.
However, during the past week 11 more people died in Simcoe, none vaccinated. They bring the totals to 229 for Simcoe and still 4 in Muskoka.
There are 31 in hospital, down from 52 cases two weeks ago, with 11 in ICU down from 13 in his last report. The age ranges include: 7 of 31 are under age 60; 3 are in their 40s with 1 in ICU; 4 in their 50s and 1 in ICU; 14 are in their 60s with 7 in ICU; 10 are age 70+ with 2 in ICU.
Of the latest 40 cases today, 38 are sporadic and 2 are workplace related outbreaks, with 19 males, 21 females.
About 50 per cent are under the age of 35, with 8 community acquired, 13 had close contacts, 2 workplace-related, 2 travel and 15 are under investigation.
Of them 38 are isolating at home, 1 has recovered and case is unknown at this point.
Gardner said the region’s hot spot in Bradford-West Gwillimbury has improved to 192 cases per 100,000 population per week (ppw) as of last week. The week of April 11 it was 334 cases per 100,000 ppw.
In Barrie those numbers were 82 last week and 136 two weeks before.
That makes the average weekly cases 73 per 100,000 ppw, compared to last week (April 25) at 92 cases.
Gardner said that’s about half the province’s rate, which this week is 140 per 100,000 ppw. That’s about where the region has been for the great majority of the pandemic.
He said “younger people” continues to make up the great majority of cases.
Those between 18-34 had the highest incidences of cases at 272 per 100,000 ppw; with children and teens aged 0-17 at 192 per 100,000 ppw.
For all age groups — from April in to May — there has been between a 52 and 66 per cent reduction in cases.
Variants of concern (VOC) still make up the majority of cases. Last week 92 per cent of them. Most are of the UK variety.
But the 1 case related to India, B.1.617, has not resulted in any other cases, contact or transmission.
On the topic of immunizations, Gardner said the health unit continues to make “very strong progress” with 242,500 vaccinations. They include 10,300 through primary care practices and 23,300 at pharmacies — both of AstraZeneca.
He said pharmacies will soon be getting Pfizer and Moderna doses.
Muskoka’s two provincial vaccination centres continue to be open twice a week in Bracebridge and three times in Huntsville.
Thirty-six per cent of residents have had their first dose, which is about 36 per cent of the population. And 21,000 have received a second dose.
Gardner called that “very high coverage” for age groups down to age 70+.
For first doses among those 80+ it 87.6 per cent; those 70-74 it’s 82.5 per cent; and gradually down to people 60-64 it’s 70 per cent.
He called it “strong progress protecting the older population as they look forward to protecting the younger populations.”
And there’s “a great acceleration through this month of the eligibility groups toward the end of May.”
Gardner said the region’s ICU bed capacity is at 86.7 per cent and beds used for ventilation are at 85.2 per cent of space availability.
He also noted this being nurse recognition week the significant contribution of nurses, especially the 228 who work for the health unit and the 100 hired since the start of the pandemic.
As well, he said as of May 11 those 40+ can get vaccinated and a number of groups including those vulnerable and on dialysis will be getting their second doses of vaccine.
As well as the most highly essential workers.
Also, Simcoe-Muskoka is one of 15 pilot health units providing the Moderna vaccine to primary care physicians. But he said don’t call them, they will call you.
And on call-backs, a new stand-by list for available left-over vaccine at the end of the day residents can register starting at 8 a.m. — not 7 a.m. — but you must re-register every day. See their website to register.
On the topic of enforcement, a blitz April 30-May 1 saw 173 businesses visited with more than 70 per cent of them in compliance.
But only four provincial offences notice and 3 tickets. The most common offences were related to warnings on screenings, safety plans, capacity limits and staff lunch room protocols.
Gardner added that he’s looking at statistics on how much vaccine the health unit is providing to other people from outside the region vs. how much is provided to Simcoe-Muskoka resident who get vaccinated outside the region elsewhere.
He said “we’ve found that we have a slightly positive balance for ourselves and slightly more citizens from Simcoe-Muskoka get vaccinated out of Simcoe-Muskoka than the amount of vaccination we are providing within Simcoe-Muskoka to people who are from elsewhere.”
He said “that is something were are going to keep a very close eye on given the potential for people who have secondary residences or who are travelling here otherwise to be seeking immunization here and we want make sure we are able one way or the other to provide immunization to our citizens.”
Gardner said it’s the “right call” to extend the lockdown to June 2 — and even longer if necessary.
He said he was “very concerned” back in February when the province opened “too soon” when there were about 1,000 cases and today transmission are much higher.
But he didn’t have a “clear bench mark” as to the number of cases in mind to get down before opening up the province more.
The risk is a fourth wave in to the summer and beyond.
He said there’s a “real possibility” extensions will go beyond June 2.
Even if that doesn’t happen he said the steps to open have to be really cautious.
“Personally,” he said restrictions have to be more broad and not restricted to certain health unit regions — and possibly province-wide as was done with the first wave.
HEALTH UNIT HIGHLIGHTS:
- There have been 11,101 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Simcoe Muskoka since COVID-19 was first identified in Canada.
- There have been 71 new cases reported to the health unit for the current week. There were 439 new cases reported to the health unit last week (week of May 2nd), 21% lower than the 558 cases reported for the week of April 25th.
- There were 25 COVID-19 deaths in April, double the 12 Simcoe Muskoka residents who died from COVID-19 in March. There have been six COVID-19 deaths so far in May among Simcoe Muskoka residents.
- To date 3,122 local cases have tested positive for the COVID-19 variant of concern UK B.1.1.7 (UK), 76 cases have tested positive for the P.1 variant of concern (Brazil), 17 cases have tested positive for the B.1.351 variant of concern (South Africa) and an additional 695 cases have screened positive (awaiting confirmatory testing).
- Over 242,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Simcoe Muskoka, including doses administered by local pharmacies. Over 225,500 individuals living in Simcoe Muskoka have received their first dose of vaccine, which represents over 36% of the total population.
IN OTHER COVID NEWS …
- Blood clot concerns prompt Ontario to put pause on AstraZeneca vaccines after increase in rare number.
- Golf courses will remain close for the fore-seeable future when the stay-at-home order continues to June 2.
- Ontario report 2,073 cases and 15 deaths, 807 in Toronto, 294 in York and 707 in Peel. North Bay-Parry Sound had none.
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