Vaccination benchmark not yet reached: NWHU

By Natali Trivuncic
Staff Writer

The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) is still reminding the public that face masks are still mandatory in the province.

This reminder comes as Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU, said they have received complaints from businesses of people from out of the province who are coming into local businesses and not wearing masks.

Young Hoon said they are reaching out to local businesses to provide support.

“We think that they are individuals from other provinces where that restriction no longer applies,” Young Hoon said. “Masking is still required in Ontario and enclosed public spaces, so individuals who are visiting need to remember that masking is required.”

Manitoba has recently lifted their mask mandate which allows for individuals to be unmasked in indoor public places. Other provinces that have also lifted their mask mandate include Alberta, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and P.E.I.

There are currently four active cases in the region, two in the Dryden/ Red Lake region, one in the Kenora area that is currently isolating outside of the NWHU catchment area and one in Sioux Lookout.

While active case numbers are down in the region, the NWHU catchment area is not out of the woods yet. Young Hoon said as there have been many talks about the potential of a fourth wave.

“I think there has been information on the potential for the fourth wave being quite significant,” Young Hoon said. “At this point, the conversation is that masking will likely continue throughout the fall and into the winter. At this point, I’m not seeing an endpoint for the masking policies that are put forward by the province.”

Masks are only part of the solution to preventing a fourth wave. Nearly 114,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given, but Young Hoon said the vaccination rate in the region is still not high enough.

Only 74 per cent of individuals over 18 are fully vaccinated and 72 per cent of those 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

Young Hoon said the benchmark vaccination rate is 85 per cent.

Young Hoon said she encourages the public to get vaccinated and the NWHU will soon be offering COVID-19 vaccination clinics at schools across the region.

The clinics will begin in the early afternoon for students and will run until the evening to ensure accessibility. The evening portion of the clinics will be available for the public to book into or to attend as a walk-in.

“This is very important for us to increase the vaccination rates to a level that would prevent COVID-19 and the fourth wave in the fall,” Young Hoon said.