Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
SIMCOE-MUSKOKA — Days before schools reopen, locally reported COVID cases climbed slightly today to 362 as concerns grow among most Canadians about Omicron’s chilling effect.
Winter of discontent no doubt.
Both federal and regional health officials forecast ever more cases in to early February.
Simoce Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) said Friday that by its account 4 more people than yesterday tested positive.
But even they admit that’s not a true number of residents with the coronavirus.
Still many provincial school boards — along with news columnists in large and small communities — are calling on Ontario to return to full disclosure of cases.
Parent Rhonda Way, in Gravenhurst, is among those questioning provincial COVID policies.
She writes: “My daughter attends Muskoka Beechgrove Public School here in Gravenhurst. Eva is in Grade 3 and her class is in a portable.
“Education Minister Stephen Lecce went on about hepa filters in classes without ventilation and in portables.
“I spoke with a teacher today and she stated that the school has not yet received the N95 masks and was skeptical about getting them in order to start school Monday. She also told me that the portable she’s teaching in does not have a hepa filter.
“She is a wonderful woman and teacher and is doing her best.
“She will be opening the class doors and windows at recess for fresh air. Sadly when the children return to class everything will be closed up.
“It’s Muskoka in the winter and we’ve had -30 temperatures this week. They cannot consider doors and windows ventilation in this cold.
“My daughter’s class is not safe despite the best efforts of her teacher.
“I feel like we have been forgotten up here in the north and the safety focus is on the GTA. Even with the way rapid tests are distributed.
“In the GTA there are places distributing tests and I have seen people lining up on the news to pick them up.
“We have no such opportunity in Muskoka.
“Lecce boasted that there was another 3,000 hepa filters being sent to Ontario schools. That is a very sad number when there are 4,900 public schools in Ontario. Less than one new filter per school and I doubt they are being distributed evenly.
“It’s just wrong that my daughter’s third grade class is in a portable has to choose between being safe and freezing in the winter — or warm and risk contracting this easily spread virus.”
Update: Teachers did get their N95 masks Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the province through public health units will only be required to notify families if 30 per cent of a school — including staff and students — is absent. But it will not be confirmed whether all absences are due to COVID-19.
Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the SMHDU, said Wednesday that the only time it closed a school the Simcoe-Muskoka was last fall when it ordered Spruce Glen elementary in Huntsville to shut not strictly due to COVID, but because logistically the school couldn’t operate with so many active cases among students and staff cohorts.
Ontario says it will report the number of children aged 5-17 who are admitted to hospital. Just not the actual number of cases.
While drilling down on case numbers is increasingly difficult for the public and press, the focus shifts to hospitalizations and positivity rates of testing.
Simcoe’s positivity rate is 21.1 per cent as of Jan. 2 and Muskoka’s is 17.1 per cent.
And across the region 26 are in hospital as of Friday — one of them admitted overnight.
However, not all of them may be residents living in the region, Gardner admitted this week.
Ontario, which saw about 2,000 patients transferred to other hospitals last spring, expects more this winter.
The province today reported 3,814 in hospital including 527 in ICU. Quebec, by comparison has 3,085 in hospital and 275 in ICU.
Dr. Kristen Jones, a family physician at the Bracebridge Medical Arts Centre, said yesterday that since Omicron became the dominant strain she’s seen “quite a lot more cases than before” in just her practice alone.
“The number of cases is definitely increasing rapidly. I would say I only had 4 patients get COVID the last 12 months, until this last month.
“Since the end of December I’ve noticed I’ve had at least 50 patients test positive for COVID.”
Jones said a lot of people are testing with rapid tests now.
“We do ask them to try and get a PCR test. However, we do know that it’s sometimes hard to find a place that has openings, just because of the large number of people getting COVID.”
She said doctors like her strongly recommended for you to avoid getting COVID people should follow the pubic health guidelines, which she admitted “do change periodically.”
“Definitely masks, washing hands, staying away — all those things really do help.”
Jones still remains optimistic that we’ll be able to weather the latest wave this winter.
“I do. I believe strongly in vaccines. And we’ve seen a huge difference in people throughout the third vaccine, the booster. They are more protected against Omicron.”
She added there is no shortage of vaccine and that her office held a vaccine clinic Thursday that was “very well attended.”
See Dr. Jones’ video interview below:
FRIDAY: COVID P.H.0. NUMBERS: … 329 CASES IN SIMCOE-MUSKOKA (358 YESTERDAY) … ONTARIO 10,964 AND 41 DEATHS (9,909-35) … TORONTO 1,961 (1,805) YORK 918 (1,001), PEEL 1,561 (1,365) … NORTH BAY-PARRY SOUND 61 (32) … PORCUPINE 47 (34) … KINGSTON 60 (54) … HALTON 632 (434) …
HEALTH UNIT HIGHLIGHTS:
- 27,408 confirmed cases to date
- 1,619 cases this week
- 3,061 cases last week, 14% lower than the 3,546 cases the week before
- From December 22 there have been 8,583 confirmed cases
- among vaccinated individuals.
- From July 18 to January 13 the rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations among the unvaccinated vaccine-eligible Simcoe Muskoka population is 11 times higher than it is for fully vaccinated population, the rate of COVID-19 ICU admissions is 21 times higher and the rate of deaths is 8 times higher.
- 215 cases have tested positive for the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant of concern, and an additional 1,512 cases are considered suspect Omicron (awaiting confirmatory testing).
- 1,178,608 vaccines have been administered
- 488,958 individuals living in Simcoe Muskoka have received at least one dose of vaccine, which represents 81% of the total population.
- 85% of the population 5+ have had at least one dose of vaccine; including 82% of youth 12 to 17 years of age
- 42% of children 5 to 11 have also received at least one dose of vaccine
More stats we’ve found:
- There were 230 new COVID-19 tests per 10,000 population in Simcoe County and 175 tests per 10,000 populations in Muskoka District for the most recent week (January 2nd). In comparison the provincial testing rate was 272 tests per 10,000 populations.
- Note that weekly testing data is updated on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays and testing rates for the most recent week are incomplete and will change in future updates.
- The percent positivity rate for the most recent week (January 2nd) in Simcoe County is 21.1% and 17.1% in Muskoka District, compared to the provincial percent positivity rate of 22.9%. This is the highest local percent positivity reported during the pandemic, with nearly double the previous week.
- Recent weeks represent the highest local percent positivity reported during the pandemic.
- Percent positivity in Simcoe County was higher than the provincial rates through November and December, but has dropped below provincial rates for the most recent week.
- Percent positivity was highest among children and youth under 18 in the most recent week.
- Testing rates have been highest in adults 18-34 in recent weeks. With the changes in eligibility for testing, adults over 65 currently have the highest testing rate.
IN OTHER COVID NEWS …
- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office apologized to the Queen for staff parties the eve Prince Philip’s funeral where Elizabeth II had to sit apart from her family due to COVID restrictions.
- U.S. has record day of 1.35 million cases.
- 900 Canadian Armed Forces who are unvaccinated face formal military charges.
- All truck drivers crossing the border must be fully vaccinated as of Saturday, regardless of whether they are Canadian citizens or foreign nationals, the federal government said in a change late Thursday.
- 2 PEI residents, over the age of 60, are the province’s first fatalities of the pandemic.
28 years of ‘Local Online Journalism’
Twitter: @muskokatoday, Facebook: mclairmont1
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