Northwestern Ontario positivity rate remains highest in province

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer
memara@fortfrances.com

The per cent positivity rate in the region is the highest in the province, currently sitting at 22.4 per cent. That has raised some concerns for Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), as the province begins lifting restrictions.

“The province is seeing a general improvement while our numbers aren’t improving. They’re staying relatively level with some possibility that it could be worsening with respect to hospitalization numbers,” she said. “The opening could potentially worsen our numbers.”

The province has announced the end of proof of vaccination as of March 1. Young Hoon said the provincial announcement is based on the provincial statistics which look quite different from our epidemiology. She said we are not seeing a decrease similar to that in other regions, adding that the hospitalization numbers are also increasing.

She said a reason for this could be due to the nature of our dispersed geography, which would make the spread occur over a long period of time. She also said more people are eligible for testing in the region.

“Indigenous populations are eligible for testing. And we do know we have a larger Indigenous population here compared to other other areas. And so because when people are eligible for testing, more cases are showing up.”

In addition, Young Hoon said in other parts of the province, the positive cases would be detected through a rapid antigen test, which is not reported to public health.

Young Hoon also said that nearly 64 per cent of children five to 11 have received their first dose of the vaccine.

“Our vaccination rates are good locally,” she said. “Nearly 75 per cent of people aged 50 and older have received a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This provides significant protection against the Omicron infection including serious outcomes.”

Parents and guardians who want their children vaccinated can contact their local health unit office or book an appointment online, she said. School clinics will continue for this age group to help remove barriers and access to the vaccine. However, she said children aged five to 11 require consent from their parents or guardians to receive the vaccine.

Those aged 12 to 17 will also be eligible for a booster dose on Feb. 18. Young said it is recommended that a booster dose is given to this age group around six months after their second dose.

“Our large-scale vaccine clinics are now over and we will be shifting our energy to in-office and targeted clinics based on demand,” Young Hoon said.