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COVID-19: 55 cases in London-Middlesex; those with at-risk health conditions now vaccine-eligible

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Fifty-five new COVID-19 cases have been reported in London-Middlesex, health officials said on Tuesday.

In addition, people with at-risk health conditions are now eligible to get the vaccine, as are more people who can’t work from home.

The case update brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 11,264, of which 10,245 have resolved, an increase of 105 from the day before. At least 210 deaths have been reported, most recently on Sunday.

At least 10 deaths have been reported this month.

At least 809 cases are active in the region as of Tuesday. The health unit says 775 cases have been reported since the start of the month, about 432 cases fewer than the first 10 days of April.

The region’s rolling seven-day case average stands at 80.5 as of Tuesday, down from 91 the seven days prior.

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Of the 55 new cases Tuesday, 51 are from London, three are from Middlesex County and one is pending location data.

Infections are spread relatively evenly among age groups.

Seven cases involve people 19 or younger; 12 are in their 20s; seven are in their 30s; 13 are in their 40s; 10 are in their 50s; and six are in their 60s. No cases involve people 70 or older.

Close contact is listed as the reason for 26 of the cases, while 16 have no known link, 10 are pending information, and three are due to outbreak.

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The number of confirmed/presumed* variant cases recorded in the region rose by 149 on Monday, to a total of at least 2,177.

Nearly all of those cases — 2,156 — have involved the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K.

At least 20 have involved the P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil, four more than the day before, and one, reported last week, involved the B.1.617 variant, first detected in India.

*A note on the process of confirming and presuming variant cases:

  • Positive COVID-19 cases undergo initial screening for spike protein mutations common to variants (including N501Y, E484K and K417N), and if found to have one or more, undergo further genomic analysis to determine the specific variant involved (such as B.1.1.7, B.1.351 or P.1) — a process that can take up to two weeks.
  • The province has stopped conducting genomic analysis on cases that screen positive for just N501Y. Those cases are presumed to involve the B.1.1.7 variant, as the variant has only been associated with that mutation.
  • Cases that screen positive for either E484K or K417N are still being sent for genomic analysis as they have been associated with the B.1.351 and P.1 variants, first detected in South Africa and Brazil, respectively.

A separate tally from the health unit shows at least 287 cases in the region have screened positive for a spike protein mutation that is consistent with one or more variants.

At least 156 of them are in the process of genomic analysis, as they screened positive for the E484K mutation. At least 116 also screened positive for N501Y.

Another 131 cases were initially found to have just the N501Y mutation, but since they have not been ruled out for E484K, they are not being presumed B.1.1.7 yet, and added to the main variant tally. It’s unclear if or when the cases may be added.

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“We can say with some certainty there has been spread here,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, on Monday about the additional P.1 cases.

“This is not a situation where we have a lot of travel-associated cases. Most of those cases were acquired locally. So like other COVID viruses, no doubt that this is circulating in our community right now.”

Asked what may be the cause of the region’s recent lower daily case counts — 27 were confirmed on Sunday and reported on Monday — Mackie replied that the health unit wasn’t particularly sure.

“We’ve seen the case counts vary throughout the pandemic, in part because of how the lab processes. We don’t have a great explanation as to why there were over 100 reported on Saturday and less than 30 cases reported on Sunday,” he said.

Mackie noted that when looking at weekly case data rather than daily case data, the region has seen a decline in cases compared to previous weeks over the past month.

“The case counts over the last week are definitely lower than the previous week. It’s not the decline that all of us are hoping for, we definitely want to see those numbers accelerating downwards more quickly, but it is moving in the right direction.”

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A total of 10,126 cases have been confirmed in London since the pandemic began, while 344 have been in Middlesex Centre.

Elsewhere, 323 cases have been in Strathroy-Caradoc, 145 in Thames Centre, 70 in Lucan Biddulph, 56 in North Middlesex, 54 in Southwest Middlesex, 15 in Adelaide Metcalfe and three in Newbury.

At least 128 cases have pending location information.

Hospitalizations

At least 76 COVID-19 patients were listed as being in the care of London Health Sciences Centre on Tuesday, a decrease of 13 from the day before.

Of those, at least 41 are in intensive care, a decline of four from Monday. At least five staff are currently positive, down one from Monday.

Provincial data shows the 76 tally is the lowest COVID-19 patient count LHSC has seen since at least mid-April.

The organization has seen extremely high numbers of COVID-19 patients in its care, including a record 100 on Friday, as a result of the third wave which has overwhelmed Toronto-area hospitals, forcing patients to be transferred elsewhere to maintain capacity.

As of Tuesday, at least 35 of the 76 COVID-19 patients in LHSC’s care were from out of the region, including 24 of the 41 who are in the ICU.

St. Joseph’s Health Care London says no COVID-19 patients are in its care at any of its facilities, however three cases are active among the organization’s staff.

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“While we are encouraged by the early signs of stabilization that are emerging across the system, it’s important to note that we are stabilizing at a point where hospital numbers are still very high across the province so we find ourselves at a significant juncture,” said Carol Young-Ritchie, LHSC’s executive vice-president, chief clinical officer and chief nursing officer, during Monday’s briefing.

“Whether this period of stability will lead to a downturn will depend on the actions of our communities,” Young-Ritchie said, urging people to follow pandemic restrictions.

Young-Ritchie said LHSC was anticipating between five and 10 patients from out of the region this week, noting that while transfers have “slowed down a little bit” they are continuing.

LHSC has opened at least 25 additional critical care beds to deal with the capacity crunch, and has reduced surgical volumes by half to free up space and staff as part of a provincial directive. Urgent and emergent cases are still being done.

“We don’t anticipate reducing any further, and actually we’re looking for a revision of directive too, and anticipating that sometime this week,” Young-Ritchie said.

At least 603 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19 in London-Middlesex, the health unit says. Of those, at least 100 have needed intensive care.

Institutional outbreaks

No new institutional outbreaks have been declared, but six remain active.

Three are active involving Glendale Crossing (Glanworth, Lambeth, Westminster), while one each is active involving Dearness Home (5 East, 5 West), Kensington Village (1st floor of long-term care), and Kensington Village Retirement (Canterbury).

At least 823 of the region’s cases and 107 of its deaths have involved long-term care and retirement homes, health unit data shows.

The health unit says 14 cases this month have involved seniors’ facilities.

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Meanwhile, a non-institutional outbreak, active at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre since Jan. 18, remains active, linked to at least 62 inmate cases and 43 staff cases.

Three inmate cases were active at the jail as of Sunday, provincial data shows.

It’s unclear if any other non-institutional outbreaks or workplace outbreaks are active in the region, as MLHU only reports outbreaks in settings such as child-care, education, and health-care.

Schools

No new school cases have been reported by either the Thames Valley or London District Catholic school boards.

One case is active in the region involving Sir Arthur Currie Public School.

At least 351 cases have been reported involving local elementary and secondary schools during the pandemic.

TVDSB parents have until the end of the month to decide whether they want their child to take in-person or remote classes next school year.

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In the local child-care sector, two cases remain active that are both associated with London Bridge: Rowntree Park Early Childhood Learning Centre.

The facility still has an active outbreak declaration. Officials told 980 CFPL earlier this month that the facility would remain closed until at least late this week.

Eighty-five cases have been reported during the pandemic at local child care and early years settings.

In post-secondary, no outbreaks are currently active involving Western University student residences. The last outbreak was declared over on Sunday at Perth Hall.

Outbreaks involving at least eight Western student residences over the last month and a half were tied to nearly 200 cases.

Vaccinations and Testing

People 16 and older with at-risk health conditions, and people who fall under Group 2 of the province’s list of people who can’t work from home, are now vaccine-eligible.

The change opens eligibility up to a very large group of people, including people with dementia, diabetes, heart disease, diagnosed mental disorders, stroke and cerebrovascular disease, liver disease, and other health conditions.

Workers listed under Group 2 includes those in grocery, pharmacy, restaurants, LCBO, social work, courts and the justice system, electricity, communications infrastructure, waste management, and more. Such workers also no longer need a username and password from their employers and can book through self-attestation.

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As of Tuesday, all adults 50 and older who don’t fall under a previously identified eligible group can book a vaccine appointment, but that is expected to be lowered to 40-plus on Thursday and 30-plus as of May 20.

“And then the following Thursday, the 27th, we will open up to everyone 18 and above,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, on Monday.

“The (May 20) for the 30-plus population and (May 27) for the 18-plus population are still pending provincial confirmation, but those are the days that we believe that we will be able to open and that is what we are planning for now.”

In addition, Mackie says people determined by the province to be high-risk essential health-care providers will be eligible to get their second vaccine doses starting on Friday. The workers will have to contact the health unit by phone to arrange the second shot.

Eligible residents are asked to visit the local vaccine booking website or call 226-289-3560 to book an appointment at one of the region’s mass vaccination clinics. Online appointments are encouraged due to the high call volume.

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People 40 and older had been eligible to get the AstraZeneca shot as part of the province’s pharmacy program, however Ontario is now halting first doses of the vaccine because of increased instances of a rare blood clotting disorder linked to the shot.

The province’s top doctor said the decision was made out of “an abundance of caution.”

The blood clotting syndrome linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine is extremely rare but can be fatal. In Canada, at least 12 cases have been confirmed out of more than two million doses given and three women have died.

The province, along with others, is awaiting results of a clinical trial in the United Kingdom looking at giving a different vaccine for the second dose.

More than 216,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in London-Middlesex so far, with about 188,000 through the region’s three mass vaccination clinics, 22,000 through the province’s pharmacy pilot, and 5,500 through primary care settings, such as doctors offices.

“That’s a tremendous accomplishment, and it actually represents fifty one percent of the adults in this region,” Mackie said.

“That’s total vaccinations given, so there have been second doses among there, and we know we vaccinated some people from outside of the region. But the fact we’ve delivered enough vaccine for more than half of the adult population is an enormous accomplishment.”

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The quickly expanding eligibility comes as the province is set to receive more vaccine doses over the next two months. The province is set to see more than four million Pfizer doses in May and 3.7 million in June.

The province is also expecting 388,000 Moderna doses this month. A shipment of 116,000 Johnson & Johnson shots is also expected to arrive in May, and the province said it will share more information on use of that vaccine soon.

During Monday’s briefing, Mackie said London-Middlesex was expecting just over 12,000 Pfizer doses and roughly 10,000 Moderna doses.

“We’ve actually had an additional 1,200 or so (Moderna) that have been released for primary care, in particular, this week. (We’re) working with primary care practitioners to make sure that we can get those 1,200 vaccines into arms by the end of the week. End of day on Saturday is the goal.”

With the bump in vaccines, the health unit is anticipating opening its fourth mass vaccination clinic at Earl Nichols Arena, however, an exact date remains elusive. Mackie said a timeline was expected later this week.

Those looking to get tested for COVID-19 can still visit the region’s two main assessment centres, at Carling Heights and Oakridge Arena, which remain open and operating by appointment.


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Ontario

Ontario reported 2,073 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 15 additional deaths from the virus.

The case numbers were based on more than 28,100 tests completed since the last daily report.

The province said there are currently 1,782 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including 802 in intensive care units.

Meanwhile, people with at-risk health conditions in Ontario became eligible to book their COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday. That includes people with dementia, diabetes and sickle cell disease.

Another group of people who cannot work from home including grocery store, restaurant and transportation workers also became eligible to book a shot.

Starting Thursday, anyone 40 or older will be able to book a shot anywhere in the province.

The government said it has been able to expand eligibility to more age groups because it is expecting to receive millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the coming weeks.

Ontario said it expects 65 per cent of adults to have their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of May.

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Ontario’s science advisers say the province could safely reopen many outdoor recreational facilities even if it extends a stay-at-home order in the coming weeks.

The scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table says outdoor activities like golf, tennis and beach volleyball are low risk.

Dr. Peter Juni says that in some cases, if physical distancing cannot be maintained during the activity, people should wear masks.

Juni says public health officials must address activities linked with the sports — like carpooling or sharing a locker room — which represent greater risk of COVID-19 exposure.

The province imposed a stay-at-home order last month that closed thousands of business and outdoor recreational facilities, except playgrounds.

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The science table criticized the restriction of outdoor activities, saying they will not control COVID-19 and disproportionately harm children and those who don’t have access to their own green space.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday that the province was considering extending the stay-at-home order, which would mean the outdoor facilities would likely remain closed.

The province’s top doctor said he would like to see “well below 1,000” daily cases before Ontario lifts the stay-at-home order. Dr. David Williams stressed that while the province is bending the pandemic curve, it has not brought the numbers down far enough.


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Elgin and Oxford

Five new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Elgin-Oxford, officials with Southwestern Public Health said Tuesday.

It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 3,572, of which 3,362 have resolved, an increase of 10 from the day before. At least 77 deaths have been reported, most recently on Monday involving a man in his 70s.

The health unit says at least 138 cases are active in Elgin-Oxford, including 31 each in St. Thomas and Woodstock and 28 in Tillsonburg.

At least 15 people from the SWPH region are currently hospitalized, including eight in intensive care, the health unit says.

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The number of variant cases, and cases which have screened positive for a mutation consistent with a variant, stands at 596. At least 100 are active, or about 72 per cent of the region’s active cases.

At least 529 of the cases have either been confirmed to be or are presumed to be the B.1.1.7 variant, while two cases have been confirmed to be the P.1 variant.

At least 65 cases have screened positive for the E484K spike protein mutation, which has been associated with the P.1 and B.1.351 variants, detected in Brazil and South Africa, respectively. Those cases are undergoing genomic analysis.

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More than 66,500 SWPH residents have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As of Tuesday, people 16 and older with at-risk health conditions and members of the province’s second group of people who can’t work from home are now eligible to get the vaccine.

By age, all people 50 and older who don’t fall under a previously eligible group can get the shot. That’s expected to be lowered to 40-plus on Thursday and 30-plus the Thursday after.

Meanwhile, people in the N5H postal code who are 18 and older are still eligible to get the shot at a local vaccine clinic as the region is still considered a provincial hot spot. People from N5H must show proof of age and address at the vaccination clinic.

Eligible residents are asked to visit the area’s vaccine booking site or call 226-289-3560.

People who are able to get to a vaccination clinic in half an hour at the last minute are being asked to put their name on SWPH’s same day vaccination list.

People 40 and older had been eligible to get the AstraZeneca shot as part of the province’s pharmacy program, however Ontario is now halting first doses of the vaccine because of increased instances of a rare blood clotting disorder linked to the shot.

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No new school cases have been reported and none are active, according to the Thames Valley and London District Catholic school boards.

No new outbreaks have been declared but two remain active.

One, involving Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital, is linked to one death, 11 patient cases, five staff cases, the health unit says.

The other outbreak, at Caressant Care Nursing Home in Woodstock, is linked to four resident and six staff cases.

The health unit says at least 787 cases have been reported in Woodstock during the pandemic, followed by 658 in St. Thomas, 510 in Aylmer, and 451 in Tillsonburg.

Elsewhere, at least 234 have been in Norwich Township, while 184 have been in Bayham, 171 in Ingersoll, 137 in East Zorra-Tavistock, 87 in Central Elgin, 83 in Blandford-Blenheim, 75 in Zorra, 68 in South-West Oxford, 46 in Dutton/Dunwich, 34 in Southwold, 28 in West Elgin, and 18 in Malahide.

The region’s test positivity rate stood at 3.2 per cent as of the week of April 25. The figure is down from 3.5 the week prior.

Huron and Perth

Two new COVID-19 cases, both located in South Huron, have been reported in the Huron-Perth region, local health officials said Tuesday.

It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 1,656, of which 1,535 have resolved, an increase of four from the day before. At least 53 deaths have been reported, most recently on May 3.

The region has at least 68 active COVID-19 cases, according to the health unit, including at least 18 in South Huron and 18 in Stratford.

Five people are currently hospitalized, unchanged from the day before.

The health unit says at least 32 cases were reported on Saturday and Sunday, the result of workplace outbreaks, social interactions, and household spread.

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The number of variant cases, and cases which have screened positive for a mutation consistent with a variant, stands at 157. At least 43 are active, or about 63 per cent of all active cases in the region.

Public Health Ontario reports that at least 93 have been confirmed or are presumed to be the B.1.1.7 variant.

(If a case is found to have just one specific spike protein mutation, N501Y, during initial screening, the case is presumed to be B.1.1.7 and is not sent for further genomic analysis. The reason being that particular variant has only been linked to that mutation.)

Details of the remaining 57 cases is limited, but its likely they have either: a) tested positive for a different mutation consistent with different variants and are still undergoing genomic testing, or b) they initially screened positive for just N501Y, but have not had other mutations ruled out yet.

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The health unit says more than 52,000 people in Huron-Perth have gotten at least one dose.

As of Tuesday, people 16 and older with at-risk health conditions and members of the province’s second group of people who can’t work from home are now eligible to get the vaccine.

The change opens eligibility up to a very large group of people, including people with dementia, diabetes, heart disease, diagnosed mental disorders, stroke and cerebrovascular disease, liver disease, and other health conditions.

Workers including those in grocery, pharmacy, restaurants, LCBO, social work, courts and the justice system, electricity, communications infrastructure, waste management, and more are also now eligible.

By age, all people 50 and older who don’t fall under a previously identified group are eligible. It’s expected that will be lowered to people 40 and older later this week.

Those looking to book an appointment are asked to do so via the local booking system or by calling 1-833-753-2098.

More information on the local vaccine campaign and eligibility can be found on the health unit’s website.

People 40 and older had been eligible to get the AstraZeneca shot as part of the province’s pharmacy program, however Ontario is now halting first doses of the vaccine because of increased instances of a rare blood clotting disorder linked to the shot.

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No new school cases have been reported and only two are listed as being active.

The cases are associated with Anne Hathaway Public School. The health unit says there was no school exposure as students are in remote learning.

When it comes to outbreaks, the health unit says one is active at a long-term care home while three are active at unnamed workplaces, and one at an unnamed congregate living setting.

The long-term care home outbreak, located at Fordwich Village in Howick, is associated with two staff cases.

A total of 645 cases have been reported in Perth County, with 401 in North Perth and 149 in Perth East, while 557 have been reported in Huron County, with 130 in South Huron and 107 in Huron East.

Stratford has reported at least 414 in total, while St. Marys has seen 40.

The region’s test positivity rate stood at 1.0 per cent the week of April 25, about the same as the week before.

Sarnia and Lambton

Four new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Lambton County, local health officials said Tuesday.

It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 3,336, of which 3,207 have resolved, an increase of 13 from the day before. At least 56 deaths have been reported, most recently on April 24.

The health unit says there are 73 active cases in the county.

At least 17 people are in the care of Bluewater Health, the most that have been recorded so far during the pandemic’s third wave.

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The number of variant cases, and cases which have screened positive for a mutation consistent with a variant, stands at 461.

At least 321 of the cases either been confirmed to be or are presumed* to be the B.1.1.7 variant, according to Public Health Ontario. At least four cases have been been confirmed to be the P.1 variant.

(*If a case is found to have just one specific spike protein mutation, N501Y, during initial screening, the case is presumed to be B.1.1.7 and is not sent for further genomic analysis. The reason being that particular variant has only been linked to that mutation.)

Details of the remaining 136 cases is limited, but its likely they have either: a) tested positive for a different mutation consistent with different variants and are still undergoing genomic analysis, or b) they initially screened positive for just N501Y, but have not had other mutations ruled out yet.

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The health unit says more than 54,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Lambton, roughly 46 per cent of the eligible population.

As of Tuesday, people 16 and older with at-risk health conditions and members of the province’s second group of people who can’t work from home are now eligible to get the vaccine.

Currently, all adults 50 and older who don’t fall under a previously identified eligible group is able to get the vaccine. That is expected to drop to 40-plus on Thursday, and 30-plus next Thursday.

Eligible residents are being encouraged to book appointments for the vaccine through the health unit’s website.

People with questions about the booking process can contact the health unit’s new call centre at 226-254-8222.

People 40 and older had been eligible to get the AstraZeneca shot as part of the province’s pharmacy program, however Ontario is now halting first doses of the vaccine because of increased instances of a rare blood clotting disorder linked to the shot.

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No new school-related cases have been identified as the region’s two main school boards, the Lambton-Kent District School Board and the St. Clair Catholic District School Board, have paused the reporting of new cases during the remote learning period.

As of Tuesday, the health unit says four outbreaks are active, including one at Bluewater Health hospital in Sarnia.

The outbreak, declared on Monday, is linked to three patient cases, the health unit says.

Elsewhere, an outbreak is active at Afton Park Place long-term care home in Sarnia, linked with two resident and five staff cases.

Two outbreaks are also active at unnamed workplaces, both tied to three cases each.

The health unit says the region’s per cent positivity was 1.9 per cent as of the week of April 25.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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