NWHU advises continued caution with high cases in some communities

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

With 17.6 per cent, the COVID-19 positivity rate is decreasing in the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) catchment area.

That being said, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU, said the numbers are still higher than the province and that residents should be cautious with protection measures.

“Case numbers and rates have improved in the Rainy River District and the rates are now closer to the risk noted across most health hubs in the far district,” she said.

She said the risk of being hospitalized from the Omicron variant is 1 per cent, adding that risk varies by age and vaccination status.

“Older age groups are more likely to be hospitalized as well as people who have chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, etc. They’re more likely to have an increased risk of hospitalization.”

Young Hoon said people who have only received one or two doses of the vaccine are at increased risk of hospitalization.

“While two doses provide some protection against hospitalization, the third booster dose provides very good protection against hospitalization,” she added.

Young Hoon explained that people should understand that case numbers are most affected by testing rates.

“If a lot more people get tested, then they will show up in the case numbers,” Young Hoon said, explaining that eligibility plays a big role in the reported cases.

“First Nation communities, everyone is eligible for testing because Indigenous populations in general are eligible for testing,” Young Hoon said. “Therefore communities where there’s a high Indigenous population will have a higher case number rate.”

Young Hoon also reported that some First Nation communities in the Sioux Lookout Health Hub are reporting very high numbers of COVID-19, and some have declared a state of emergency.

“Our thoughts are with the affected communities as they work through these large numbers of cases,” Young Hoon said. “We know that this is a difficult time and many individuals and families are being impacted.”

Because the Sioux Lookout Health Hub covers a very large area with many communities, the risk in this health hub varies considerably.

She noted that although there are improvements in trends, local statistics are still higher than provincial statistics, adding that the general public should be aware that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is higher in our catchment area.

This also marks the first week that mandatory mask requirements have been lifted. Young Hoons said she encourages everyone to consider their personal risk and the risk to those they gather closely with when considering their masking choices.

“Wearing a mask provides an extra layer of protection which may be especially important for those who are at higher risk of severe outcomes from a COVID-19 infection,” Young Hoon said. “This includes those who are vaccinated have underlying health conditions and anyone who’s immunocompromised.”

Young Hoon said there are some settings that still require masking including healthcare settings.

NWHU falls into this category and masks are still required to be worn in their offices and at their clinics, she added.

“We thank the public for showing respect and kindness during this time of change,” she said.