Southwestern Public Health (SPH) updated its Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) information Sunday morning.
In Oxford and Elgin Counties, SPH reports 44 cumulative confirmed cases (since the first confirmed case in March) and 29 ongoing confirmed cases. Twelve are no longer infectious. As of Sunday morning, three COVID-19 deaths had been reported in Elgin County.
A total of 1,232 people in the Southwestern Public Health region have been tested, including 275 pending results.
As of Sunday morning, 10 ongoing cases have been reported in Oxford County, including two in Tillsonburg – SPH confirmed the second Tillsonburg COVID-19 case on Tuesday, April 14.
Other ongoing cases are in Blanford-Blenheim (2), East Zorra-Tavistock (2), Norwich (1), Woodstock (2), and Zorra (1).
In Norfolk and Haldimand Counties, as of Sunday, April 19, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit reports 620 lab-confirmed negative cases and 158 lab-confirmed positive cases. Thirty cases have been resolved (no longer infectious) and there have been 26 deaths.
In Haldimand-Norfolk, 70 per cent of the positive cases are women compared to 60.5 per cent women in Oxford-Elgin. H-N age distribution also differs from Oxford-Elgin where 30 per cent confirmed cases are ages 50-59. In Haldimand-Norfolk, 42.1 per cent are 80-years and older, impacted by results from Hagersville (pop. 3,000) where 94 people tested positive for coronavirus, including 70 from Anson Place where 23 people died.
“Approximately 60 per cent of the cases are related to individuals residing or working at Anson Place,” stated Shanker Nesathurai, MD, MPH, FRCPC Medical Officer of Health, Haldimand County and Norfolk County, in an April 17 memorandum.
“There is preliminary evidence of epidemiological link to the cases at Anson Place and a funeral and related visitation in the community. This should not be interpreted that individuals who attended the funeral were the “cause” of the outbreak at Anson Place or vice versa. The identification of the link permitted additional public health measures to control the transmission of COVID-19; this included enhanced testing.”
Graphs in the April 17 H-N memorandum showed 22 of the 158 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in Norfolk County (Simcoe 7, Waterford 6, Vittoria 4, Port Dover 2, and Delhi 2).
“The key to mitigating the effects of COVID-19, on a community level, is to identify, test and self-isolate appropriate individuals,” Nesathurai stated. “Most of the tests have been completed at community testing sites in Delhi and Hagersville. A third testing site will be operational in Dunnville next week. Some patients have been tested in the emergency departments of local hospitals; on a few occasions, testing has been completed at family physician’s offices.”
Since mid-March, when the global coronavirus pandemic was declared, 20 London and Middlesex County residents have died from COVID-19.
As of Sunday morning, 24 new COVID-19 cases had been reported over the weekend in the area.
Of the 20 deaths in the London area, roughly one-third – seven in all – have come in long-term care homes, a sector that’s accounted for roughly half the 1,500 Canadian deaths in the coronavirus pandemic so far.
Provincewide, Ontario is battling COVID-19 outbreaks at 123 of the more than 600 long-term care institutions in the province, centres that house more than 70,000 often frail and elderly residents.
As of Saturday afternoon, there were active COVID-19 outbreaks at 13 London-area health care and retirement centres, including both campuses of the London Health Sciences Centre. An outbreak is declared when a single positive case is reported.
Other facilities with outbreaks include long-term care and retirement homes.
Given the rising number of cases and the nature of the virus, which produces more severe symptoms and a higher likelihood of death among older patients, the toll at such facilities is only expected to go up, said Alex Summers, the Middlesex-London Health Unit’s associate medical officer of health.
“We do know that, as our case counts rise, that we will also see a likely increase in deaths,” he said. “Is it a surprise? No. Is it concerning? Absolutely. Everything about it is concerning.”
Ontario has announced new steps in recent days to fight COVID-19 in the long-term care sector, such as redeploying hospital staff and other health care workers to the hardest-hit homes, improved testing, and making sure staff at long-term care homes work only at one facility, rather than move between more than one.
But the most important tool to fight the pandemic and prevent more deaths in long-term care, said Summers, remains ensuring people continue to practice social distancing.
“In the big scheme of things, we are seeing some slowing of the curve… we’re not in an exponential increase of growth,” he said.
“But we’re only there because of the physical distancing, and in order for us to keep on that trajectory, we need to continue physical distancing. We really need people to understand that now’s not the time to get complacent.”
Provincially, there have been 156,097 people tested as of Sunday, which includes 139,783 negative tests and 10,578 cumulative confirmed cases of which 4,816 are ongoing cases.
There have been 553 COVID-19 deaths in Ontario.
– with files from Jonathan Juha (LFP – Postmedia)