Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com

SIMCOE-MUSKOKA — Almost a third of local COVID cases the past week have been among school-aged children under 12.

Thirty-one per cent were aged 4 to 11, said Dr. Charles Gardner.

Six alone today were ineligible for the vaccine due to their age.

And a recent death of a youth in Simcoe was not related to COVID, despite comments otherwise on social media, Gardner said.

A review of his health records showed there was no indication of mycarditis (heart disease related to a virus), said Simcoe-Muskoka’s medical officer of health.

But he had received a Pfizer vaccine more than a month before his “tragic death.”

Investigations continue with the province’s chief coroner.

Gardner also noted that the province’s chief medical of health did advise last Wednesday that those aged 18-24 not receive the Moderna vaccine as it appears to cause slightly higher incidents of myocarditis.

This as tomorrow the province is to announce guidelines for Thanksgiving gatherings.

Gardner said that rules remain the same for no more than 25 people to dine indoors together and 100 outdoors.

He said virtual turkey dinners should still be considered a health option.

Meanwhile COVID case counts continue a four-week downward spiral with 52 so far in the first three days of this week after 97 a week ago and 108 the prior week.

All of the cases the past week have been the Delta variant.

Cases are more than half what they were the week of Aug. 29 when 203 were reported.

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) saw a 10 per cent drop last week similar to the province.

But there were 5 deaths in September — 3 women and 2 men — none of whom were vaccinated.

And while there a 6 in hospital (down from 13 a week ago), none had a record of immunization. Four remain in ICU.

Gardner said he has not yet recommended any local schools for rapid testing in areas where there is a “high risk” to keep them open, now that the province has made them available in hot spot pockets of concern.

He said 18 recent concentrated efforts at vaccination clinics in schools have been successful with 2,177 vaccines given to student and their families and the public.

That includes 44 per cent of them who were immunized for the first time, 38 per cent of them school kids and 53 per cent males.

The health unit still needs to make progress, said the MOH, with young men among whom only 65.6 have been vaccinated. And youth overall with only at 74.6 per cent coverage.

There remain four outbreaks in schools, but four are over now. No schools have been closed.

Gardner admitted it’s “entirely true” that the pandemic will be around in some form for years to come.

Especially with new variants possible and it remaining a big problem in other parts of the world possibly longer than in Ontario and Canada.

He just hopes it will ease off enough for the health unit to return to its regular health duties.

He added that the health unit’s own deadline is this Friday for its own staff to report their vaccination status.

But as of now he said 80 per cent have reported.

He didn’t say how many of that number have been vaccinated, only that they have provided SMDHU with their status.

The health unit has had 280 fulltime-equivalent workers at one time, more than double during the pandemic.

18 school pop-up clinics in the past three weeks have led to 2,177 vaccinations, including 44 per cent of them first-timers and 38 per cent school kids.

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