The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) announced on Tuesday that there are currently 19 active cases, seven in the Kenora region and 12 in the Rainy River District. Since March, there have been a total of 178 confirmed cases and four probabilities.
Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU, said that they have looked at the weekly data from Dec. 20 to Jan. 3, and over that time the region had 16 new cases, seven in the Kenora region and nine in the Rainy River District.
Young Hoon said that there has mainly been an increase of cases in the Town of Rainy River and Fort Frances.
“I think for both those communities, there needs to be awareness of the increasing risk, but I do believe that the risk will apply to the entire Rainy River District because of how people move and socialize,” Young Hoon said.
Of the 16 cases during that time period, two were travel-related, three were close contacts of a previous case, and three were linked to an outbreak. For eight of the cases, the sources of COVID-19 were unknown.
There were no new hospitalizations, but three people are currently in hospital and there has been one death.
Young Hoon said there has been an increase in cases since before Christmas that have not gone away.
“I think it’s uncertain at this point where the direction of our numbers are going,” Young Hoon said. “It really is important, no matter what the provincial restrictions are, that people follow public health measures and make the effort to physically distance, follow good hand hygiene and stay home if you’re sick.”
Due to privacy reasons, the NWHU cannot comment on individual cases but Young Hoon said that a false positive result is highly unlikely. She adds that when there is a positive result but the person is showing no symptoms, it can be caused by a number of reasons.
For instance, the person could be very early on and have not developed symptoms yet, or they could have had the disease a long time ago and are past their infectious period. Young Hoon adds that some individuals remain positive for three to four months and they are referred to as a remote positive, which is a scenario that the NWHU often encounters. Lastly, there is a small possibility of a human error occurring along the way leading to a false positive.
Young Hoon said that they treat cases in long-term care homes extremely seriously because of the vulnerability of the population.
“It is important that when we get a positive case, to manage it as a true positive,” Young Hoon said. “There is a very low threshold for ensuring that the population is protected.”
Young Hoon said the province continues to have discussions with local public health on vaccine rollout, but that provincial government is dependent on the federal government to make decisions.
Young Hoon said they are receiving a variety of different guidance documents to ensure that they are prepared for the vaccine rollout but they have not received clear information yet on amounts and when the vaccine will be coming.
“Based on what we’ve been told, there is a plan to prioritize high risk populations in the first phase so that would include people who live in long-term care homes and who work in long-term care homes, hospitals, health care workers, indigenous populations and adult home care recipients,” Young Hoon said.
Young Hoon said at this point the vaccine has not fully demonstrated that it prevents asymptomatic transmission so it is important that even when individuals get vaccinated they continue to follow public health guidelines.
Between Dec. 31, 2020 and Jan. 3, 2021, nearly 3,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine were administered to 24 long-term care homes. Over 4,000 doses to 26 long-term care homes of the Moderna vaccine are planned to be administered between Jan. 4 and Jan. 6. An estimated 2 million vaccine doses are expected to arrive throughout the winter during Phase One of the province’s vaccine implementation plan.
Young Hoon said the provincial government understands the need for vaccines in northwestern Ontario but that there are limitations that come with distribution such as production from pharmaceutical companies. She adds that while it is important for the region to receive the vaccine as soon as possible, the province is working hard to try and distribute the vaccine as quickly as they can.
If you are experiencing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus, call the Assessment Centre. For Fort Frances or Emo, the number is 274-3261 ext. 4913 and for Rainy River ext. 6500.