‘Variants of concern’ fueling more COVID-19 cases in Oxford, Elgin

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There is still a need to diligently follow COVID-19 safety measures, says Dr. Joyce Lock, the medical officer of health for Southwestern Public Health.

On Monday, the health unit for Oxford and Elgin counties reported 63 new COVID-19 cases (from Friday to Sunday), bringing the ongoing total up to 115.

Twelve cases were active in Tillsonburg as of Monday, up five from last Friday.

“After a year of watching numbers go up and down, it can feel like too much for all of us,” said Lock. “Yet we can’t become complacent. We can’t forget that the numbers are more than ‘numbers.’ Each of these numbers reflects a person who is sick. Fortunately some are only mildly sick, but some are very seriously ill.”

When looking at the data, Lock said it’s easy for people to rationalize that it’s happening to someone else or somewhere else.

“But the reality is that COVID-19 is everywhere right now. It’s in every demographic in our community – and in every single community. We can’t turn away from the numbers, we need to use these numbers to fuel our resolve to make us more determined to continue on our journey to mitigate transmission.”

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Variants of concern (VOC) are at the forefront of their concern.

“We continue to see variants of concern in our community case counts,” said Lock, noting that as of last Thursday the Southwestern Public Health region had 17 variants of concern cases – 19 per cent of the region’s active COVID-19 cases.

“These variants can derail all the work we’ve done over the past year in our communities,” said Lock. “They spread more quickly and we’ve seen that in households. They are making people sicker and we’ve certainly seen that in our ICUs and our hospital admissions in the larger urban centres. These variants of concern are deadlier in some populations.”

As of Monday, three people with COVID were in hospital, with one in ICU in the Oxford-Elgin region.

“When our own data shows that there is a single case in our local hospitals, it is easy to think it’s not that bad,” said Lock. “But if we step back and look at our province, it is an entirely different story. This is not a problem for someone else, or somewhere else, it is a problem for all of us.”

Ontario announced another four-week lockdown beginning April 3, and Lock said the positive impact stricter measures have had reducing the spread of the virus.

“If we all buckle down once again for the next few weeks, hopefully in four weeks we will emerge and be able to resume more of our activities. Hopefully it (emergency brake shutdown) will be short-lived and only for four weeks.”

VACCINE DEMAND

“Supply lags behind demand at this time so it will take time to get everyone vaccinated,” said Lock. “Please know, there will be enough vaccine for everyone who wants it. It will just take a little patience.

“We are confident that by the end of September all of you who want (COVID-19) vaccine will have it.”

cabbott@postmedia.com

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