Further Spread of COVID-19 UK Variant in Dryden and Kenora Regions

By Natali Trivuncic
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Variants of concern continue to spread and pose a risk in the community according to a statement issued by the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) on Sunday.

Cases of the COVID-19 UK variant have been found in both the Dryden and Kenora regions. The statement did not provide the number of variant cases but stated that one is related to the recent school case in Kenora.

There is currently no indication that the cases from the two regions are related, according to the NWHU statement.

Variants of the COVID-19 virus are spreading across a wide range of age groups and it is likely that people who do not know they have COVID-19 are spreading it throughout the community, the NWHU states.

The NWHU warns that they are continuing to see large gatherings which can lead to grim outcomes for the community and are advising the public to follow the lockdown restrictions set out by the province.

“Individuals should not gather with anyone who they do not live with and avoid travel, even within the region unless it is for an essential purpose,” said Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU.

Young Hoon said they are encouraging people to get tested, adding that only when the NWHU has a confirmed case that they are able to do case and contact management to control the spread of COVID-19.

Young Hoon said the workplace outbreak at the Walmart in Dryden has led to a number of cases and one has been identified as a variant, adding that it could be in connection to the variant case in a Dryden school, but they do not have enough details yet.

“The school case is still under investigation,” Young Hoon said. “However, we’ve had a number of negative test results associated with that school investigation so that hopefully means there’s not been significant spread through the school setting, but the workplace outbreak is still an ongoing situation that we’re monitoring.”

The outbreak is primarily affecting staff, Young Hoon said, adding that there is a possibility that customers can also be linked to this outbreak.

“The workplace outbreak is concerning, and we are encouraging that if you have symptoms of COVID-19 that you get tested, and that you isolate if you perceive that you’ve had symptoms during the period of time of the exposure, so since March 9,” Young Hoon said.

The NWHU reported five new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, two in the Dryden health hub, one in the Fort Frances health hub, one in the Red Lake health hub, and one in the Sioux Lookout health hub.

As of Sunday, there are currently 57 active cases in the region, 14 in the Dryden health hub, 18 in the Kenora health hub and 21 in the Sioux Lookout health hub.

There are currently seven hospitalizations.

From the vaccine allotment the NWHU has received, there have been 11,061 doses of the Moderna vaccine administered in the region.

Young Hoon said they are expecting more vaccines to arrive within the week and more clinic appointments.

Young Hoon said they are generally discouraging people from travelling from an area with a higher risk to an area with lower risk or vice versa to receive the vaccine.

“I think in general, if people can just look or be patient for an appointment that’s in their own community or within the nearest community, that would be preferable,” Young Hoon said.