The Northwestern Health Unit has new freezers in place to store the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, but is unsure when it could arrive in the region, and in what quantity. The vaccine was approved on Dec. 23 and Ontario is expecting its first shipment by today.
Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU, said this vaccine is more likely to come to northwestern Ontario than the Pfizer vaccine, due to shipping and storage concerns. The Moderna vaccine can be stored in a standard freezer, between -15 C and -20 C, making it more practical in remote regions. When the vaccine does arrive in Ontario, there is priority for health care providers, long-term care homes, red zones and grey zones at this time.
Young Hoon adds that when the vaccine arrives to the NWHU region, it will be spread out over the course of the next year.
The NWHU announced on Tuesday that there are currently 20 active cases, seven in the Kenora region and 11 are in the Rainy River District. There are also two cases that are classified as other but are currently under the district of Rainy River.
Since March there are 162 confirmed cases and four probable cases giving a total of 166 cases.
There are also currently two hospitalizations and one death that was announced on Dec. 23.
The two unclassified cases are under the Rainy River District because both were in the Rainy River district when they acquired the illness but have home addresses that are not in the NHWU area.
Young Hoon said that the situation has progressed over the holiday season, seeing an increase in cases mainly in the Rainy River district with most of the cases in the Town of Rainy River or in the surrounding area.
Young Hoon said it should be noted that other communities such as Emo and Fort Frances need to be aware of the heightened risk in the Rainy River district.
Most of the cases the NWHU is seeing now are contacts with previous cases or are associated with the outbreak that has been declared on Dec. 23 at the Riverview Manor Senior’s apartments. Young Hoon adds that cases are also the result of social gatherings between households.
“This is good in the sense that we’re able to follow up with these individuals,” Young Hoon said. “Most of these contacts are more likely to have been isolating before they found out they had COVID-19 so that increases the likelihood that we can control the spread of COVID-19.”
Young Hoon adds that the province wide lockdown which began on Dec. 26, is going to be helpful in controlling the spread of COVID-19 particularly in the Rainy River District.
The shutdown is determined provincially and Young Hoon said the province will decide if northwestern Ontario’s lockdown will be extended based on the transmission rates and COVID-19 case numbers.
Young Hoon stresses that in order for the lockdown to be successful in lowering case numbers, they are encouraging everyone to follow the recommendations and the requirements for the province wide shut down. This includes staying within your household, keeping activities only to what is essential, staying two metres away from others not in your household and following good hang hygiene. It is permitted for a one-person household to pair up with another household.
Anyone with symptoms or who has been in contact with a case, can book a COVID-19 test at the Assessment Centre. Riverside Healthcare is asking those wishing to book a test to call the extension directly; switchboard staff have become overwhelmed with the volume of calls requiring redirection. Please call the Assessment Centre directly at 274-3261 ext. 4913 for Fort Frances or Emo, or ext. 6500 for Rainy River.