Coronavirus: 6 new cases in London as MLHU reports spike in infections involving Western students

WATCH: (Sept. 14, 2020) Long wait times at London COVID-19 assessment centres following declaration of community outbreak.

Six people, all students from Western University, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials with the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) reported Monday.

The cases bring the region’s total case count to 756, of which 678 people have recovered. Fifty-seven people have died, most recently on June 12. There are at least 21 known active cases in the region.

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Health officials say all six cases involve Western students in their 20s from London. Four are men, and two are women.

Four are among those linked to a community outbreak declared by MLHU on Sunday.

At least eight confirmed cases have been reported as part of the outbreak, all involving Western students health officials say. One case was later referred to a different health unit, leaving seven under the jurisdiction of MLHU.

In declaring an outbreak, the health unit said it was anticipating additional cases as health officials continued contact tracing.

According to health officials, the students linked to the outbreak have not attended class or on-campus activities and “live in the community,” however, they did have “a number of interactions” at bars and restaurants in the city’s downtown, as well as interactions with other students in neighbouring housing units.

It’s not clear what establishments the students visited and when, however during Monday’s COVID-19 media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, appeared to confirm that one of the outbreak-linked cases was one reported by a downtown nightclub over the weekend.

Lost Love Social House, a nightclub located near Richmond and Carling streets, announced on Facebook on Saturday that it would close for a deep clean after a patron who attended the venue on Wednesday notified management that they had tested positive for the virus.

It wasn’t clear when the nightclub planned to reopen, but the Facebook post stated that staff would undergo COVID-19 testing and would self-isolate until their results came back. Other patrons who visited the club on Sept. 9 were also being encouraged to get tested.

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Just a day earlier, the health unit announced a patron of El Furniture Warehouse, a bar and restaurant on Richmond Row, had tested positive.

“All of the outbreak cases have links to activity in packed bars in the downtown area, mostly on Richmond,” said Mackie.

“The additional cases, we’re still investigating, but certainly at least one of them has links with close quarters environments, and at least one is linked to travel.”

The health unit says it’s advising anyone who may have frequented clubs, bars and restaurants in the downtown to monitor themselves for symptoms.

When it came to naming bars and restaurants where patrons have tested positive, Mackie said the health unit was still investigating.

“We’re not at the point, in terms of being able to point to one specific facility, or more than one facility is really having problematic record-keeping or issues within the facility,” he said.

“When we’re at that level, I will certainly consider releasing the information publicly.”

“Restaurants keeping records is actually a big factor in terms of releasing the names of those restaurants, and the restaurants or bars know who is there when, then it’s easy for us to use that information for contact tracing. There isn’t necessarily a public health reason to identify the facility in terms of people being at risk.”

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Mackie added the health unit had been able to shift some staff members, such as public health inspectors, to evenings on the weekends to make them available to deal with these types of occurrences.

“This weekend, we didn’t have large parties in the community that were reported… at least none that came through to public health, and we’ve been working with the city and and with police on that issue,” Mackie noted.

“What we are noting is really around some of those bars and restaurants, particularly places where in the past the facility has been set up for dancing, large groups of people together, it’s hard to make that transition to (a more) restaurant environment where people are keeping their distance. That’s where we’re seeing the issues.”

Following word of the confirmed Western cases, long lines were seen at the university’s on-campus testing trailer on Monday.

The trailer opened last week and runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. The university reported the trailer had run out of capacity by early Monday afternoon.

Lines were also long at the health unit’s COVID-19 assessment centres. More than 100 vehicles could be seen lined up around the block waiting to get into the Oakridge Arena assessment centre Monday morning.

Similar lines were also reported at the Carling Heights location, both on Monday and over the weekend. The facility is the only assessment centre open on weekends.

Monday also marked the return to school of many students with the region’s public school board.

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At 11:35 a.m., the health unit tweeted that wait times at the two assessment centres were between three and four hours. Later, health officials asked residents to postpone visiting if not symptomatic, a Western student, or a recent patron of a downtown establishment.

“A lot of the testing we’re seeing is coming from those younger demographics, young adults in particular,” Mackie noted.

“And the awareness, I think, is exploding among young adults that the sorts of behaviours that they may have been engaged in can lead to a risk for COVID-19.”

Asked whether the health unit would consider opening a third dedicated assessment centre, Mackie didn’t directly respond, but stated that there were also other testing options.

“There is testing available at Western now, there’s a mobile facility, there’s also a consideration for testing facilities outside of London and the Middlesex area, there’s a strong plan moving forward in that direction,” he said.

We’re also encouraging family docs to provide that testing. So lots of work being done to try and increase the testing capacity. Clearly, that will be needed over the coming weeks and months.”

The health unit reported five cases on Sunday, including four people in their 20s. Two cases were reported on Saturday, both involving people in their 20s, along with one recovery.

People in their 20s make up the region’s largest age group of cases, accounting for 170, or just over 22 per cent of the region’s case total. People in their 50s make up 113 cases, while people 80 and above make up 108.

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At least 700 of the region’s cases have been reported in London, while 26 have been in Strathroy-Caradoc and 12 in Middlesex Centre.

Seven cases have been in Thames Centre, six in North Middlesex, four in Lucan Biddulph and one in Southwest Middlesex.

As of Monday, the region’s seven-day average for new cases stands at 2.7, up from 1.28 on Friday. Looking back 14 days to Aug. 31, the average is 1.71.

The region’s cases per 100,000 rate stands at 149.0 as of Monday, while Ontario’s is 299.4.

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One institutional outbreak remains active in the region as of Monday. The outbreak, on the fourth floor of Chelsey Park Retirement Community, was declared active Sept. 9.

There have been at least 28 outbreaks declared during the pandemic, including 22 at local seniors’ facilities. Outbreaks are tied to 191 of the region’s cases and 35 of its deaths.

Outbreaks, including those not involving seniors’ homes, are the largest transmission source, linked to 259 cases.

At least 115 people have had to be hospitalized during the pandemic, including 32 who have needed to be admitted to intensive care, according to the health unit.

It’s not clear how many, if any, hospitalized cases are currently active as health officials have not made that information readily available. London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) only says the number of hospitalized cases currently is “five or less.”

Ontario

Provincially, Ontario reported 313 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and one death.

There were also 133 cases newly marked as resolved over the past 24 hours.

The total number of cases in Ontario now stands at 44,817, which includes 2,816 deaths and 39,974 cases classified as resolved.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says nearly 80 per cent of Ontario’s cases are from three regions.

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She says Toronto is reporting 112 cases, while 71 are in Peel and 60 are in Ottawa.

Elliott says almost 70 per cent of Monday’s cases are in people under the age of 40.

The province says Monday that one student and one staff member have also tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to 15 school-related cases.

The head of the Ontario Hospital Association is warning that increasing COVID-19 case rates could lead to another provincial lockdown.

OHA president Anthony Dale says the province’s accelerating infection rates in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa could spread to the rest of Ontario if people don’t respect public health guidelines.

Elgin and Oxford

Two people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials with Southwestern Public Health (SWPH) reported on Monday.

The update brings the region’s total confirmed case count to 258, of which 248 people have recovered. Five people have also died, a tally that has not changed since July 3.

At least five cases are known to be active in the region, according to the health unit. Four of the cases are in Woodstock while one is in Bayham.

Three cases involve people in their 20s, while one involves a person in their 50s and one a person in their 60s. Health unit figures show the active cases involve four men and one woman.

It’s not clear how all of the individuals became infected. The health unit says at least one case is linked to workplace exposure.

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Health officials reported no change on Sunday, one case on Saturday, and one case and one recovery on Friday.

By municipality, Aylmer has reported the largest number of cases with 82 — an incident rate equivalent to 1,094 cases per 100,000 people, compared to St. Thomas which has reported 37 cases and has an incident rate of 95.1 per 100,000.

Bayham has reported 38 cases, Woodstock 26, Tillsonburg 25, Dutton/Dunwich 10 and Norwich eight.

Testing figures were not immediately available.

The health unit says the region’s test per cent positivity rate was zero as of the week of Aug. 30.

Huron and Perth

Two people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and one person has recovered, officials with Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) reported Monday.

It brings the region’s total case count to 126, of which 118 have recovered. Five have also died.

The new cases were reported in Central Huron in Huron County and in Stratford.

There are three known active cases in the region.

The health unit did not issue an update over the weekend. One case and one recovery was reported Friday.

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At least 45 cases have been reported in Perth County, including 16 in North Perth and 15 in Perth East.

Elsewhere, at least 45 cases have been reported in Huron County, including 14 in Central Huron, 12 in Bluewater and 10 in South Huron.

In Stratford, 30 cases have been reported, along with four deaths, while in St. Marys, six cases and one death have been reported.

People in their 20s remain the largest group of cases by age with 26, followed by people in their 50s and 60s with 22 each.

Sarnia and Lambton

No new cases, deaths or recoveries were reported late Sunday by health officials with Lambton Public Health.

The total number of confirmed cases reported in the region remains at 343, of which 314 people have recovered. Twenty-five people have also died, most recently in early June.

There are at least four known active cases in the region. It’s unclear where the cases are located in the county, as the health unit has refused to release such information, including about past cases.

One new case was reported late Saturday, and no change was reported late Friday.

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There are no active outbreaks in the region. At least 10 have been reported during the pandemic, including eight at seniors’ homes, one at Bluewater Health and one at an unspecified workplace.

The outbreaks are linked to 109 of the region’s cases and 16 of its deaths. A majority of those cases, and all 16 deaths, occurred at Landmark Village and Vision Nursing Home.

The health unit says at least 24,948 tests have been received as of late Sunday and at least 1.4 per cent of tests are coming back positive.

— With files from Kelly Wang and The Canadian Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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