April break does not mean a break from COVID

Natali Trivuncic

While many students and staff at school across the province are looking forward to this week’s April break, it will be different than expected due to the province’s stay-at-home order.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), urges the public to only leave their households for essential reasons.

“During the school break, I urge the public to not gather with other families for playdates. You can get outside for exercise but please only do it with members of your household,” Young Hoon said. “COVID-19 is most likely to spread through close contact with others and you’re putting your loved ones at risk by getting together.”

There are currently 63 active cases in the region, eight in the Dryden health hub, three in the Fort Frances health hub, 16 in the Kenora health hub, one in the Rainy River health hub, and 35 in the Sioux Lookout health hub.

On Friday, the NWHU reported 12 new cases, two in the Kenora health hub, one in the Rainy River health hub and nine in the Sioux Lookout health hub.

There have now been seven deaths in the region. This includes anyone with a COVID-19 infection at the time of death even if COVID-19 was not the cause of death.

Young Hoon said they are currently looking for linkages and a better sense of if there was a specific situation that could have led to the recent increase in cases.

“It’s a bit too early to see exactly what’s going on but we are monitoring the situation closely,” Young Hoon said. “We are also trying to make sure supports are in place for cases and contact so they are able to self-isolate.”

Despite the rise in cases, the NWHU continues to doll out the vaccine, administering 14,056 doses so far.

Young Hoon said some vaccination clinics in the region have been filling up quickly and they will add more as availability opens. Young Hoon adds that residents should refrain from booking in other communities and wait for spots in their home community when it’s available.

There have been concerns about leftover vaccine vials being thrown out. Young Hoon said they have not been informed of wastage of COVID-19 vaccines in the region.

A vial of vaccine has 10 doses in it, Young Hoon said, adding that they plan their clinics accordingly and when people do not show up for their appointment, they have a list of eligible people to call so the dose is used.

“In theory, the most spots we would ever have to fill is nine,” Young Hoon said. “We would not open a new vial if we did not have people to use it.”

While some communities in the region have more cases of COVID-19, Young Hoon said the NWHU is not going to be focusing the vaccines on different areas depending on the cases numbers.

“At this point we are spreading out the vaccine across the entire catchment area broadly so that everyone using the eligibility criteria can get a vaccine appointment,” Young Hoon said. “I think definitely we can consider that moving forward depending on what the situation is showing.”