New Delta variant a potential threat to region

By Natali Trivuncic
Staff Writer

The region is experiencing its lowest active COVID-19 case numbers in months, but it is not time to let lose just yet. The fast-growing Delta COVID variant which was first found in India has made its way to northern Ontario and is more transmissible compared to other variants.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), said having two doses of the COVID vaccine offers increased protection against this variant.

Young Hoon adds that because the Delta variant is easily transmissible, even to those who have one dose of the vaccine, people need to continue practicing safety measures which includes wearing a mask, good hand hygiene and physical distancing.

Young Hoon said they have not seen any cases of the Delta variant in the NWHU but that there are some cases in Manitoba.

“We think it is concerning because we do know that people travel and it’s not that far away,” Young Hoon said. “That risk is real, and it can be present in our area at any time. I think one of the key things to address this risk is for people to get their second doses and to make that opportunity available to them as soon as possible.”

One new case was announced in the Dryden health hub yesterday.

There are currently four active cases in the region, one in the Dryden health hub, two in the Kenora health hub and one in the Sioux Lookout health hub.

Young Hoon said the low case numbers are encouraging and show that vaccinations and the safety measures in place are working. To keep numbers this low, Young Hoon said prevention measures and vaccinations are key.

“Although approaching zero cases is great, the goal of control measures is to keep spread at a manageable level to minimize the number of people hospitalized and deaths,” Young Hoon said. “I urge the public to see these low case numbers as a call to action that we must do our part to keep them low and not use this opportunity to get complacent.”

Over 60,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the NWHU. The region now sits at 70 per cent coverage for those who’ve received at least one dose.

Young Hoon said they are happy to see a number of people still wanting to get their first dose and attending clinics. Second dose eligibility opened significantly this week and anyone who received their first dose on or before April 18 is now eligible for their second dose.

“The second dose rollout has been going very well, particularly as of last weekend once we started increasing the groups that are eligible for the second dose, we’ve been seeing a lot of people coming to the clinic to get vaccinated,” Young Hoon said.

The Ontario government announced on Monday that the province will begin phase one of the COVID-19 reopening plan on Friday, a few days early from its initial start date of June 14.

Phase one allows patios with up to four people, outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, day camps, campgrounds, and outdoor pools and splash pads.

With low numbers of reported positive cases, Young Hoon said the region is in a good place to move forward with the reopening. However, she adds that she encourages the public to continue following public health measures, especially as we still have very few people who have their second doses.