Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) announced that those in the region with high-risk health conditions as defined by the ministry of health’s vaccine rollout plan are eligible to book an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Young Hoon said residents can book an appointment at one of their clinics or from their health care provider if they are providing the vaccine.
High risk health conditions include obesity with a body mass index greater than 40, treatment causing immunosuppression such as chemotherapy or immunity weakening medications and intellectual or developmental disabilities.
It was also announced that pregnancy was also added to the highest risk condition category which means people who are pregnant are now eligible for the vaccine as well.
Those who fit in the highest risk condition category can book an appointment by calling 1-833-942-3900.
There are currently 86 active cases in the region, three in the Dryden health hub, 14 in the Emo health hub, 16 in the Fort Frances health hub, 32 in the Kenora health hub, four in the Red Lake health hub and 17 in the Sioux Lookout health hub.
“We are seeing an increase in cases throughout the region and remind the public to remain vigilant and practice prevention measures,” Young Hoon said. “Do not gather with others who you do not live with. Variants of concern spread easily and are present in the region.”
Young Hoon said over over 90 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the province are variants of concern which is why they are seeing the drastic increase in ICU admissions in Ontario.
Young Hoon previously announced that COVID-19 patients from other areas in the province could be transferred to the region. Young Hoon said at this point she is not aware of any transfers but that this is a possibility due to the variants’ risk.
Young Hoon said the region has mostly been seeing the U.K variant of the virus.
“Variants of concern are present in our area and we have seen in parts of the province how serious and deadly they are,” Young Hoon said. “We must prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our area to protect residents and our healthcare services. Therefore, it is important to avoid all non-essential travel. If you must leave the region for any essential reason, upon re-entry limit interactions with others as much as possible for 14 days.”
Young Hoon said variants have primarily been found in the Kenora health hub and the Dryden health hub, adding that there have been a few cases noted in the Sioux Lookout health hub.
Young Hoon said since June there have been delays in getting test results concerning variants of concern.
“Sometimes there’s a case and we don’t really notice the variant right away. Having said that, all cases are managed as if they are variants of concern,” Young Hoon said. “There are a lot of restrictions that are put in place on cases and contacts to prevent spread and to prevent spread early on as soon as possible.”
The NWHU has administered 21,827 doses of the vaccine.
Young Hoon said health and safety protocols still apply even if households are vaccinated.
“The general recommendation across the entire region is that everyone still has to follow public health measures, and everyone is still very much under the stay-at-home orders and the restrictions,” Young Hoon said. “Whether you’re vaccinated or not, those restrictions still apply. It’s also important for people to recognize that most individuals only have their first dose so there’s still a possibility of getting COVID-19 even if you’ve been vaccinated, although small.”