COVID-19: 1 death, 47 cases in London-Middlesex; vaccine eligibility now 18+ in N5H hot spot

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One person has died and another 47 have tested positive for COVID-19 in London-Middlesex, local health officials reported on Monday.

The increase, the lowest the region has seen since March 29, is likely an undercount after the province’s data-tracking system suffered an outage on Sunday, health officials said.

“Anyone who looking at today’s case count… can be assured that there were actually more than 40 cases,” Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, said Monday.

“It’s just that our lab system wasn’t able to report them directly because of that provincial data system outage.”

It brings the region’s pandemic case total to 10,623, of which 9,508 have resolved, an increase of 79 from the day before.

At least 202 deaths have been reported, including two since the month began.

The most recent death involved a man in his 80s who was not associated with a long-term care or retirement home, the health unit said. Officials reported one death on Sunday involving a man in his 60s.

At least 913 cases are active in the region as of Monday, a decrease of 32 from the day before.

The region’s rolling seven-day case average stands at 90, down from the 98 seen the seven days previous.

At least 136 cases have been reported since the start of May. At least 3,305 cases were reported in April, the most of any month by far.

Of the 47 new cases reported on Monday, 41 are from London while six are from Middlesex County.

Those infected skew younger, with 57 per cent involving people under the age of 40.

At least six cases involve people 19 or younger, 12 are in their 20s, nine are in their 30s, five are in their 40s, six are in their 50s, five are in their 60s, and four are in their 70s.

Close contact is linked to at least 23 cases, while 12 have no known link, and three are due to outbreaks. At least nine are pending or have undetermined exposure source data.

Data as of April 3, 2021 via Middlesex-London Health Unit

Data as of April 3, 2021 via Middlesex-London Health Unit

Middlesex-London Health Unit

The number of variant cases seen in the region stands at 1,619, an increase of 11 from the day before, the health unit says.

Of the 11 newly confirmed variant cases, at least one involves the P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil. The cases are likely several weeks old, and just recently completed genomic analysis.

The rest of the region’s variant cases, 1,611, involve the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K.

The health unit notes that its overall variant tally includes cases presumed to be B.1.1.7, as well as cases that have undergone genomic analysis and confirmed to involve a variant of some kind.

  • Confirming a variant is a multi-step process. Positive COVID-19 cases undergo initial screening for spike protein mutations common to variants (N501Y, E484K and K417N), and if found to have one or more, undergo further genomic analysis to determine the specific variant involved (B.1.1.7, B.1.351 or P.1) — a process that can take up to two weeks.
  • The province has stopped conducting genomic analysis on cases that screen positive for just the N501Y mutation. Now, those cases are presumed to involve the B.1.1.7 variant, as that variant has only been associated with the N501Y mutation.
  • Cases that screen positive for either the E484K or K417N mutation are still being sent for genomic analysis as they have been associated with the B.1.351 and P.1 variants, first detected in South Africa and Brazil, respectively.

[/infobox]

The health unit says there are at least 143 additional cases that have screened positive for the E484K mutation, consistent with the B.1.351 and P.1 variants. The cases are currently undergoing genomic analysis.

Meanwhile, another 131 cases were initially found to have just the N501Y mutation, however, they have not been ruled out for E484K. As a result, they are not being presumed B.1.1.7 and added to the main variant tally. It’s unclear if or when these cases may be added.

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Local officials continue to urge residents to adhere to pandemic restrictions during the third wave.

It comes after several people were spotted golfing at the city-owned Fanshawe Golf Course over the weekend, despite it being closed due to the provincial stay-at-home order.

“Unfortunately, we can’t be everywhere at all times, but we do have security on-site and we are working with bylaw regarding enforcement,” said London Mayor Ed Holder during Monday’s briefing.

Later in the briefing, Holder called the scofflaw golfers “ignorant” and “disrespectful” for putting themselves above the law.

“I think of them some of the most ignorant, inconsiderate people that London has,” he said, adding that bylaw enforcement was investigating.

“We will get them. And I don’t say that to be vengeful. I say that because no one is above the law, because as soon as we do that, it leads to anarchy and it leads to people just saying, ‘I can do whatever I choose.’ Well, they cannot. Not during a pandemic.”

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At least 9,520 cases have been confirmed in London since the pandemic began, while 331 have been in Middlesex Centre.

Elsewhere, 309 cases have been in Strathroy-Caradoc, 140 in Thames Centre, 68 in Lucan Biddulph, 56 in North Middlesex, 53 in Southwest Middlesex, 15 in Adelaide Metcalfe and two in Newbury.

At least 129 cases have pending location information.

Hospitalizations

At least 94 COVID-19 patients are in the care of London Health Sciences Centre as of Monday, with at least 35 in intensive care.

Of the 94, LHSC says at least 32 are from out of the local area, including 23 who are in the ICU and nine in acute care.

Nine staff are currently positive with COVID-19, the organization reported.

Meanwhile, at St. Joseph’s Health Care London, no COVID-19 patients were listed as being in the care of St. Joseph’s Hospital as of April 26, the most recent update.

At least eight staff cases are active within the overall organization, however, it’s not clear in which facility the impacted staff work.

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“While our numbers aren’t increasing at the same rate they were last week or the week before, capacity across the acute health care system continues to be challenged, and the numbers don’t appear to be dropping the way we would really like to see them drop,” LHSC’s chief medical officer Dr. Adam Dukelow, said during Monday’s briefing.

LHSC has had to deal with record high COVID-19 patient rates in recent weeks, in part as a result of hard-hit Toronto-area hospitals transferring COVID-19 patients elsewhere to keep from running out of capacity.

Other local hospitals, including in Stratford and St. Thomas, have also taken in COVID-19 patients from elsewhere.

Dukelow said LHSC was anticipating receiving eight patients from out of the region this week.

LHSC has opened at least 25 new critical care beds over the last month, including at least three in the pediatric critical care unit of Children’s Hospital.

Dukelow said Monday that there were adult COVID-19 patients in the pediatric critical care unit, but he would not say exactly how many, citing patient privacy.

“We are actively working on plans that we could put in place if we needed to add capacity, but nothing is firm at this point in time,” he replied when asked if LHSC was expecting to add additional critical care capacity soon.

Like other hospitals across Ontario, LHSC has also ramped down non-urgent surgeries and procedures to free up staff and space to deal with the influx of COVID-19 patients.

Surgical volumes at LHSC remain around 50 per cent of normal capacity, Dukelow said.

Institutional outbreaks

No new outbreaks have been declared at local health-care institutions and none are active as of Monday.

No seniors’ facility outbreaks have been active in roughly a month. At least 800 of all cases seen in London-Middlesex and 106 of all deaths have occurred at long-term care and retirement homes.

Elsewhere, non-institutional outbreaks remain active at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre and at the local Cargill plant.

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The EMDC outbreak, active since Jan. 18, has seen at least 59 inmate and 43 staff cases reported, however, no inmate cases were active as of late last week.

At Cargill, an outbreak there left at least 122 infected, but few if any new cases have been reported recently.

Both outbreaks will be considered active for at least two weeks after their last reported case.

Meanwhile, outbreaks are still active at some schools and child care centres and at one Western University residence.

Information on those can be found in the below section.

Schools and child care

No new school cases have been reported and none are currently active, the health unit says.

Three outbreak declarations remain active, involving Providence Reformed Collegiate, St. Andre Bessette Secondary School, and St. Francis School.

More cases are now being seen linked to local child care and early years settings.

At least 24 cases are currently active, according to the health unit.

At least 14 alone are associated with London Bridge: Rowntree Park Early Childhood Learning Centre, which has been under an outbreak declaration since April 25.

An official with London Bridge told 980 CFPL last week that Rowntree Park would be closed until at least May 13 because of the high number of cases.

Elsewhere, at least four cases are active that are linked to Angels Daycares Komoka, which has also been under an outbreak declaration since April 28.

Two cases are active involving Miss B’s Childcare, which had an active outbreak from April 24 until Saturday.

One case each is active associated with Deb’s Daycare, Glen Cairn Child Care, Grand Avenue Child Care Centre, and London Bridge: Adelaide Early Childhood Learning Centre, the health unit says.

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In post-secondary, two more student residence outbreaks have been declared over.

The outbreaks at Delaware Hall and Elgin Hall were declared on April 2 and March 30, respectively, and were linked to at least 15 and 21 cases, respectively.

It leaves one active outbreak at a Western residence.

The outbreak at Perth Hall, declared active on April 8, has been tied to at least 31 cases, the health unit said early last week.

Including the since-resolved Delaware Hall, Elgin Hall, Essex Hall, London Hall, Medway-Sydenham Hall, Ontario Hall, and Saugeen-Maitland Hall outbreaks, Western student residence outbreaks declared since late March have been linked to at least 196 cases.

Vaccinations and Testing

Those currently eligible for the vaccine but who have not booked a vaccination slot yet are being asked to do so as soon as possible before eligibility expands once again later on this week.

Starting Thursday, all adults 50 and older will be eligible for the vaccine, along with people detailed in the first of two groups of frontline workers unable to work from home.

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During Monday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie said once that first worker group becomes eligible, the number of residents who can get a vaccine will increase significantly.

“That is a very large group that includes everyone from teachers to farmers and a number of additional groups in between,” Mackie said of the first frontline worker group.

“If people haven’t booked yet, they will still be eligible… It’s just that as of Thursday morning at about eight o’clock in the morning there will be a lot more competition for the spots that we currently have available.”

Eligible residents are asked to visit the local vaccine booking website or call 226-289-3560 to book an appointment at one of the region’s mass vaccination clinics. Online appointments are encouraged due to the high call volume.

Group 1 of 2: Essential front line workers who can't work from home.

Group 1 of 2: Essential front line workers who can't work from home.

Government of Ontario

The expansion in eligibility comes as part of the province’s updated vaccination timeline.

Released last week, the timeline calls for all Ontarians 40 and older, and those with at-risk health conditions, to be eligible by sometime next week, and for all people 18 and older to be eligible by the week of May 24.

The timeline, described last week as ‘aggressive’ by Mackie, comes as the province is anticipating a boost in vaccine shipments through the months of May and June.

The province expects to receive weekly Pfizer vaccine shipments of more than 785,000 doses in May, and more than 938,000 doses next month.

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Locally, Mackie says this week alone the region is expecting about 17,500 Pfizer doses, several thousand higher than the usual amount, and roughly twice what was seen last week when the region’s vaccine shipments dipped slightly.

The boost in vaccines allowed the health unit to add additional slots this week, which have been snapped up quick, Mackie said.

More than 160,000 vaccine doses have been administered so far, with about 3,000 being administered per day, a figure expected to increase with increased shipments.

Three clinics are in operation locally, with a fourth set to come online this month at Earl Nichols Arena thanks to the increase in doses.

With shipments of vaccine doses to Ontario expected to ramp up over the next month, Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday that the additional supply may allow for the shortening of the four-month interval between first and second shots.

If that happens, Elliott said people will be contacted to arrange a new time for their second appointment, adding that the new interval would be closer to the original timeline for vaccinations.

During Monday’s briefing, Mackie was asked about the possibility, saying it may be shortened “at some point, (but) that point is not now.”

“The reason being: we still have over half of the population of adults to vaccinate. We also may see the vaccine start going towards children,” he said.

“We expect there will be some kind of announcement federally at some point in May around that question. So the provinces will have to make decisions about whether they move to second doses to adults or move to first doses for children.”

Pfizer recommends a 21-day interval between its two shots, while Moderna recommends four weeks and Oxford-AstraZeneca advises between four and twelve weeks.

Ontario extended the interval between doses this year in a period of slow vaccine supply to Canada, making some exceptions for certain at-risk individuals.

Mackie noted that more second dose appointments will begin appearing in the months of June and July.

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Elsewhere, vaccine doses are continuing to be administered through some primary care facilities and pharmacies.

The pharmacy program is being led by the province. Residents 40 and older are asked to book a spot with the pharmacies themselves.

Those looking to get tested for COVID-19 can still visit the region’s two main assessment centres, at Carling Heights and Oakridge Arena, which remain open and operating by appointment.

Ontario

Ontario is reporting 3,436 new cases of COVID-19 today and 16 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 985 new cases in Toronto, 714 in Peel Region, and 351 in York Region.

She says there are also 271 new cases in Durham Region and 194 in Hamilton.

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The Ministry of Health says 1,925 people are in hospital with COVID-19, but notes that more than 10 per cent of hospitals did not submit data to the province over the weekend.

There are 889 people in intensive care because of the virus and 611 people on a ventilator.

Today’s data is based on nearly 33,200 completed tests.

Ontario says 53,880 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Sunday’s report for a total of more than 5.3 million doses given.

Elgin and Oxford

Forty-four new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Elgin-Oxford, local health officials said Monday in their first update since Friday.

It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 3,450, of which 3,234 have resolved, an increase of 42 from the previous update. At least 76 deaths have been reported, most recently on April 23.

At least 140 cases remain active in the region, the health unit says, including at least 33 in Woodstock, 32 in St. Thomas, and 31 in Tillsonburg.

At least 10 COVID-19 patients from SWPH are in hospital, with three in intensive care, the health unit says.

The current number of COVID-19 variant cases is unclear. The health unit said Monday that it was “reviewing data sources for the number of positive cases that are related to variants of concern (VOCs) in our region,” resulting in a reporting delay.

On Friday, the health unit had reported that the number was at least 387, of which at least 345 had been determined to be the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K.

Another 42 cases had screened positive for the spike protein mutation E484K, which has been associated with the B.1.351 and P.1 variants, detected in South Africa and Brazil, respectively. The cases were still undergoing genomic analysis to confirm a specific variant.

As of Monday, people 18 and older living in the hot spot with postal code N5H, centered around Aylmer, are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine at a local vaccination clinic.

It comes as part of the province’s recently updated vaccination timeline, which aims to have all Ontarians 18 and older eligible by the week of May 24.

The province also announced last week that it would be allocating half of its vaccine doses to designated hot spots.

Local health officials say residents of the N5H postal area must provide proof of age and residence to gain access to an appointment at a local vaccine clinic.

In the rest of the region, people 55 and older are vaccine-eligible, in addition to younger people in previously identified groups.

Eligible residents are asked to visit the area’s vaccine booking site or call 226-289-3560 to book an appointment.

Three mass vaccination clinics are in operation, including one in Tillsonburg, which opened on Tuesday. The others are located in St. Thomas and Woodstock.

Vaccinations are also ongoing at some local pharmacies as part of the provincial pilot program. People 40 and older can get vaccinated at a participating pharmacy. Appointments must be made with the pharmacy itself.

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One outbreak is active in the region, according to the health unit.

The outbreak was declared late Thursday at Caressant Care Nursing Home in Woodstock and is linked to three cases among residents and three among staff.

Elsewhere, no new school cases were reported by the Thames Valley or London District Catholic school boards.

Two remain active, with one at Arthur Voaden Secondary School in St. Thomas and Winchester Street Public School in Woodstock.

The health unit says at least 756 cases have been reported in Woodstock during the pandemic, followed by 633 in St. Thomas, 501 in Aylmer, and 430 in Tillsonburg.

Elsewhere, at least 228 have been in Norwich Township, while 180 have been in Bayham, 167 in Ingersoll, 131 in East Zorra-Tavistock, 84 in Central Elgin, 81 in Blandford-Blenheim, 75 in Zorra, 65 in South-West Oxford, 45 in Dutton/Dunwich, 28 in Southwold, 27 in West Elgin, and 18 in Malahide.

The region’s test positivity rate stood at 3.5 per cent as of the week of April 18, figures released this week show. The tally is up from 3.3 per cent the previous week.

Huron and Perth

One death and five new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Huron-Perth, local health officials said Monday in their first update since Friday.

Three cases were reported in North Perth, one in South Perth and one in Stratford.

It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 1,584, of which 1,502 have resolved, an increase of 12.

At least 53 deaths have been reported during the pandemic. Details of the most recent death were not immediately available.

As of Monday, at least 29 cases are listed as active in the region, including 12 in North Perth and four each in Central Huron and Stratford.

Two people are in hospital with COVID-19, the health unit says.

The number of variant cases in Huron-Perth stands at 107, eight more than Friday.

According to Public Health Ontario, at least 55 of those cases have been confirmed to be through genomic analysis, or are presumed to be the B.1.1.7 variant. Eighteen variant cases are active.

The remaining cases are still under investigation.

As of Friday, people 55 and older, and those turning 55 this year, are vaccine-eligible, along with previously identified groups.

Those looking to book an appointment are asked to do so via the local booking system or by calling 1-833-753-2098. More information on the local vaccine campaign and eligibility can be found on the health unit’s website.

According to the province’s updated vaccination timeline, people 50 and older and those with high-risk health conditions are anticipated to become eligible sometime this week, however, details have not been released yet from the health unit.

Elsewhere, some local pharmacies are still offering vaccine doses of AstraZeneca. Bookings should be done with the pharmacies themselves.

More than 48,287 vaccine doses have been administered in Huron-Perth as of Monday, according to the health unit.

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One new institutional outbreak has been declared.

The outbreak is located at Forwich Village in Howick and is linked to at least two staff cases. The outbreak was declared active late Friday.

Elsewhere, one outbreak is active involving an unnamed congregate living setting and one outbreak is active involving an unnamed workplace.

No new school-related cases have been reported.

Nine were listed as active as of Monday. Lists can be found on the websites of the Avon-Maitland District School Board and the Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board.

A total of 633 cases have been reported in Perth County, with 397 in North Perth and 144 in Perth East, while 517 have been reported in Huron County, with 112 in South Huron and 105 in Huron East.

Stratford has reported at least 396 in total, while St. Marys has seen 38.

The region’s test positivity rate stood at 1.1 the week of April 18, down from 1.7 the week previous.

Sarnia and Lambton

Five new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Lambton County, local health officials said on Monday.

It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 3,262, of which 3,133 have resolved, an increase of 12 from the day before. At least 56 deaths have been reported, most recently on April 24.

The health unit says 73 cases are active, down seven from the day before.

At least 13 people were listed as being in the care of Bluewater Health in Sarnia on Monday, up three from Sunday.

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The health unit says 400 variant cases have been identified in Lambton so far, an increase of 17 from Friday.

At least 266 of the cases have either been confirmed to be, or are presumed to be the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K.

At least one case has been confirmed to be the P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil.

  • According to Public Health Ontario, the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant has been associated with the N501Y spike protein mutation, while variants B.1.351 and P.1, first detected in South Africa and Brazil, respectively, have been associated with mutations N501Y, E484K and K417N.
  • As a result, any specimens screening positive N501Y and negative for E484K are presumed by the province to involve the B.1.1.7 variant and aren’t being sent for further genomic testing.
  • Specimens that screen positive for either the E484K or K417N mutation will undergo genomic testing. [/infobox]

The remaining 53 cases have either screened positive for the E484K mutation and are undergoing genomic analysis, or screened positive for N501Y but their E484K status is unknown.

The health unit says more than 43,000 people have been vaccinated as of late last week.

Eligibility as of Monday is for all adults 55 and older, along with younger people in previously identified groups. More eligibility information can be found on the health unit’s website.

On Monday, officials announced the launch of a new dedicated vaccine call centre which will run weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The call centre is being opened to better field inquiries about the vaccine from members of the public, and to provide other supports including for issues relating to booking an appointment.

The number for the new call centre is 226-254-8222.

Residents are still being encouraged to book appointments for the vaccine through the health unit’s website.

The health unit’s main number, 519-383-8331, is also still available for queries relating to case and contact management, other COVID-19 matters, and other health unit services and programs.

In addition to the main vaccine clinics, the AstraZeneca shot is continuing to be administered at some local pharmacies to people 40 and older as part of a provincial program.

Bookings should be made with the pharmacies themselves.

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No new school cases were reported by the St. Clair Catholic District School Board and none are active within the school board.

The Lambton-Kent District School Board, meanwhile, has paused public reporting of new cases while students are learning remotely.

As of Monday, five outbreaks are active in the region, with the most recent, declared Monday, at an unnamed workplace. The outbreak is linked to three cases. Two other workplace outbreaks are also active, associated with three and nine cases, respectively.

Elsewhere, an outbreak remains active at a residence of Lambton College (12 cases) and North Lambton Childcare Centre – St. Peter Canisus Site (two cases).

The health unit says the county’s test positivity rate was 2.1 per cent the week of April 18, up from 1.9 per cent the week prior, but still below the 2.8 per cent seen the week of April 4.

— With files from The Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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