COVID-19: 43 instances in Middlesex London, 15 new instances linked to variants of concern – London

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Health officials in London-Middlesex reported 43 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed in the region as of Thursday.

It brings the region’s pandemic case tally to 6,717, of which 6,290 had resolved — an increase of 27 from the day before. At least 185 deaths have been reported, most recently on March 8.

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As of Wednesday, the region has at least 242 active coronavirus cases, the health unit says. At least 531 cases have been confirmed since the start of the month.

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During Thursday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, noted the increase in cases over the last few days.

Mackie said deaths are thankfully low, with the last one reported two weeks ago, but said if the current trend of cases continue the region will start to see an increase in deaths once again.

He noted the low death numbers are “a huge testament to the vaccine campaign,” which has been focused on elderly individuals in long-term care and retirement homes.

“The big climb in cases has been directly related to close personal contacts indoors without personal protective equipment, which has been the cause of the vast majority of cases,” Mackie said.

London-Middlesex remains in the orange-restrict level of the province’s COVID-19 response framework.

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“If we continue to see cases climb we do expect there will be increased restrictions, we may move to red zone restrictions sometime soon or even to grey restrictions,” Mackie said.

Mackie said a possible move to red or grey is at least a couple of weeks out but could happen sooner if cases accelerate.

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A prime example is the large community outbreak that was declared nearly two weeks ago. The outbreak has been linked to at least 49 people, unchanged from late last week.

The outbreak was declared after multiple people contracted the virus while at one or more of at least 10 gatherings held from March 2-6.

Concerns about increased contacts and a local third wave come as more local cases have screened variant positive. As of Thursday, 69 cases had screened positive, 15 more than the day before.

That number is more than double what has been seen on any previous day.

A screened variant positive case means it has been found to have a spike gene mutation, either the N501Y, linked to 68 variant cases or the E484K, which is linked to one case.

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The N501Y spike gene mutation, a mutation shared by the three variants of concern being tracked by the province. Further genomic sequencing is being done to determine which variant.

“The E484K variant is one that also demonstrates not just increased ability to spread but also evading some of the immune response, so it’s an important variant to watch but there is still data vaccines can prevent it,” Mackie said.

“The big question is where we can get ahead of their spread in terms of preventing deaths and what impact the weather changing will have.”

At least five have been confirmed to involve the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K.

“The majority of variants in Ontario have been the U.K. (B.1.1.7) variant, data from the U.K. is showing all vaccines have been very effective in preventing the U.K variant,” Mackie said.

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The region’s seven-day case average stood at 25 as of Tuesday, unchanged from the day before. The 14-day average stood at 22.5.

At least 5,868 cases have been confirmed in the city of London since the pandemic began, while 261 have been in Middlesex Centre.

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Elsewhere, 217 cases have been in Strathroy-Caradoc, 98 in Thames Centre, 59 in Lucan Biddulph, 41 in Southwest Middlesex, 38 in North Middlesex, 14 in Adelaide Metcalfe and two in Newbury.

At least 119 cases have pending location information.

Hospitalizations

The number of COVID-19 inpatients in the care of London Health Sciences Centre dropped to 14 as of Thursday, down one from the day before.

At the same time, six are said to be in critical or intensive care, the same as the numbers reported on Tuesday.

Active LHSC staff cases went down by one on Thursday to a total of six.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph’s Health Care London had no COVID-19 cases among patients or staff at any of its facilities as of Thursday. The tally has not changed since March 8.

The health unit says at least 373 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19 during the pandemic including 67 who have needed intensive care.

Institutional outbreaks

Four institutional outbreaks remain active in the region, with three at seniors’ facilities and one at University Hospital.

Active institutional outbreaks (as of March 20), as declared on:

  • March 12 at Dearness Home (2E/2W)
  • March 12 at University Hospital (U4-Medicine 1/4IP General Medicine)
  • March 11 at Glendale Crossing (Brighton)
  • Feb. 28 at Richmond Woods (facility)

No change has been reported in relation to the University Hospital outbreak Wednesday.

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The outbreak has been linked to at least six patient cases and fewer than five staff cases.

Declared March 12, the outbreak is located in the same unit that experienced a significant outbreak in the fall, an outbreak that later spread to at least five other units.

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A non-institutional outbreak remains active at the city’s jail. The Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre outbreak was declared on Jan. 18 and has been linked to at least 29 inmate and 29 staff cases.

Provincial data shows there were no active inmate cases as of Monday. Similar information was not immediately available for staff cases.

Schools

One new case has been declared at Our Lady Immaculate, in Strathroy by the London District Catholic School Board


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At least 14 school cases are active in London-Middlesex as of Wednesday. A full list can be found on the MLHU website.

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One outbreak remains active in the region, located at Wilberforce Public School, declared on March 15. Two cases are currently active there.

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The health unit says at least 227 elementary and secondary school cases have been reported in the region during the pandemic.

In addition, 28 cases have been reported in local child care and early years settings.

Four child care or early years-associated cases were listed by the health unit as being active on Wednesday.

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They are associated with Amy’s Before and After School in Lucan Biddulph, Little Acorns Early Childhood Learning Centre – London Bridge, London Bridge: Huron Heights Early Childhood Learning Centre, and YMCA Before and After School Program – North Meadows Elementary School, the health unit says.

Elsewhere, an outbreak remains active in the post-secondary world involving Western University’s Essex Hall residence. The outbreak was declared on March 2.

Vaccinations and testing

Vaccine eligibility expanded Monday to include residents aged 75 to 79, and demand was high, health officials say.

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Those currently aged 74 but who are turning 75 this year are also eligible.

Eligible residents are asked to visit covidvaccinelm.ca or call 226-289-3560 (9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.) to book an appointment. Online appointments are encouraged due to high call volume.

More information on eligibility can be found on the health unit’s website.

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Three mass vaccination clinics are currently operating in the region with the most recent opening last week at the North London Optimist Community Centre. A fourth is planned but an opening date has not yet been announced.

Mackie says none of the three clinics are currently operating at maximum capacity due to vaccine supply limitations.

Both the North London clinic and the Western Fair District Clinic have a maximum capacity of 2,000 doses per day, while the clinic in Mount Brydges can administer up to 550 per day. Each are currently operating between 35 and 65 per cent capacity, Mackie says.

The latest data from March 21 showed a total of 64,783 doses of vaccine had been administered locally.


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A pilot offering Oxford-AstraZeneca shots to people 60 and older started this month in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor pharmacies and it’s expected to expand to 700 sites over the next few weeks.

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On Monday, Premier Doug Ford said the pharmacy pilot would be expanded in the coming weeks to include Peel and York regions if the province received more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

It’s unclear whether it may be expanded to London-Middlesex.

Some London-area residents have reportedly made the drive out of town to regions that are offering pharmacy vaccinations, something Mackie says he has no problem with if people are eligible, can find an appointment, and adhere to pandemic guidelines.

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“We certainly have seen people, lots of people, from southwestern Ontario and even from the Greater Toronto Area coming here to get their vaccines at various points. No issues with that as long as they are taking precautions, keeping the distance, wearing masks … Go where you can get a vaccine.”

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The region’s two main assessment centres, located at Carling Heights and Oakridge Arena, remain open and operating by appointment.

The Carling Heights site saw an average of 399 daily visits between March 7 and 12, while Oakridge Arena saw an average of 330.

The region’s test positivity rate stood at 1.6 per cent as of the week of March 14, up from 1.2 the week before.

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At least 9,093 people were tested the week of March 13.

Ontario

Ontario is reporting 2,380 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 336,070.

However, Thursday’s case count is an overestimation by about 280 cases due to data catch-up related to the provincial system, the Ontario government said.

Despite the inclusion of older cases, Ontario still recorded more than 2,000 new infections. The province hasn’t seen a figure that high since the tail-end of the surge at the end of January.

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According to Thursday’s provincial report, 1,016 cases were recorded in Toronto, 294 in Peel Region, 244 in York Region, 152 in Ottawa, 90 in Durham Region and 79 in Hamilton.

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All other local public health units reported fewer than 70 new cases in the provincial report.

The death toll in the province has risen to 7,280 as 17 more deaths were recorded.

As of 8 p.m. on Wednesday, the provincial government reported administering 1,755,596 COVID-19 vaccine doses, representing an increase of 79,446 in the last day. There are 304,386 people fully vaccinated with two doses.

Elgin and Oxford

Southwestern Public Health appears to be having issues with their COVID-19 reporting page. The below information was last updated Wednesday.

Seven new coronavirus cases have been reported in the Elgin-Oxford region, officials with Southwestern Public Health said Wednesday.

Wednesday’s number is 10 less than the day before.

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The region’s pandemic case tally stands at 2,723, of which 2,578 have resolved, an increase of seven from the day before. At least 67 deaths have been reported, most recently on Feb. 20.

Seventy-eight cases are active in the region as of Tuesday, with 35 in Woodstock, 11 in St. Thomas, nine in Central Elgin and eight in Ingersoll. All other regions have fewer than eight cases.

The number of screened variant positive cases in the region has risen by three from the day before to a total of 50, with at least 20 cases still active.

A screened variant positive case means it has screened positive for the N501Y spike gene mutation, a mutation shared by the three variants of concern being tracked by the province.

Further genomic sequencing is done to determine which variant. Five have been confirmed to involve the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K.

The region remains in the orange-restrict level of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework.


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The local vaccination campaign rolls on, with those aged 75 to 79 now eligible to receive a jab.

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Eligible residents are asked to visit covidvaccinelm.ca or call 226-289-3560 (9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.) to book an appointment.

Three clinics are currently operating in Elgin-Oxford.

Health unit figures show 3,626 people in Elgin-Oxford have been fully vaccinated as of March 13, while just over 5,023 have seen only one dose. Updated figures are expected this week.

Further information on the local vaccination effort can be found on the health unit’s website.

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No new school cases have been reported in Elgin-Oxford.

One new case was confirmed at Huron Park Secondary School in Woodstock late Tuesday.

Eight cases remain active at St. Patrick’s Catholic Elementary School in Woodstock. An outbreak at St. Michael’s Catholic School linked to five cases has been declared over according to Southwestern Public Health.

Both schools have closed temporarily as a result of outbreaks. St. Michael’s is closed until at least March 24 and St. Patrick’s until at least March 28.

Elsewhere, Davenport Public School and South Dorchester Public School both have one active associated case each.

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Meantime, no new institutional outbreaks have been reported. Only one is active, located at Arches Transitional Bed Program in Woodstock. Declared on March 9, it’s linked to one staff case.

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The health unit says a total of 574 cases have been reported in Woodstock during the pandemic, while 454 have been in Aylmer, 446 in St. Thomas and 343 in Tillsonburg.

Elsewhere, 206 cases have been in Norwich, 163 in Bayham, 126 in Ingersoll, 114 in East Zorra-Tavistock, 57 in Zorra, 56 in Blandford-Blenheim, 56 in Central Elgin, 50 in South-West Oxford, 25 in Southwold, 24 in Dutton/Dunwich, 20 in West Elgin and eight in Malahide.

The region’s test positivity rate stood at 1.6 per cent as of the week of March 14, up from 1.2 the week before.

At least 4,071 people were tested the week of March 14, down from 4,550 a week earlier.

Huron and Perth

One recovery and no new coronavirus case was reported in the Huron-Perth region on Thursday.

The region’s pandemic case tally stands at 1,402, of which 1,341 have resolved, one more than the day before. At least 50 deaths have been reported, most recently on March 1.

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The number of active cases in the region stands at 11, with three each in Stratford and South Huron, two in Central Huron, and one each in Perth South, St. Marys and West Perth.

Six screened variant positive cases have been reported in Huron-Perth, two more from the day before. All remain under investigation to determine which variant may be involved.

The region remains in the yellow-protect level of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework.

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Vaccine eligibility in the region has been opened to those between 75 and 79 years old.

Huron Perth Public Health says it had administered 13,595 vaccine doses as of March 23.

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“Vaccine supply is becoming more stable and predictable, however right now it still limits how many clinics we can run,” Officials said in an update Monday.

Those looking to book a vaccination appointment are asked to do so via the health unit’s booking website or by calling 1-833-753-2098.

More information on the local vaccination campaign can be found on the HPPH website.


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No new school cases have been reported in the region.

Two are active, with one associated with St. Michael Catholic Secondary School in Stratford and one at Romeo Public School in Stratford.

In the case of the Romeo Public School case, the Avon-Maitland District School Board says the infected individual did not attend school when they would have been potentially infectious to others.

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No new outbreaks have been declared at seniors’ facilities, hospitals, schools, child-care centres, congregate living settings or workplaces, and no outbreaks are currently active.

Outbreaks have been linked to 29.2 per cent of all cases in the region, followed by household contact at 26.8 per cent, then unknown causes at 25.8 per cent, 16.9 per cent of close contact and 1.3 percent linked to travel.

At least 557 cases have been reported in Perth County, including 348 in North Perth and 138 in Perth East. At least 461 been reported in Huron County, including 104 in South Huron and 101 in Huron East.

Stratford has reported at least 350 in total, while St. Marys has seen 33.

The region’s test positivity rate stood at 0.8 per cent as of the week of March 7, slightly down from 0.9 per cent the week before. Updated figures are expected this week.

At least 2,942 people were tested the week of March 7, down from 3,180 a week earlier, however, finalized numbers were not available.

Sarnia and Lambton

One death and 41 new coronavirus cases have been reported in Lambton County, local health officials said Thursday.

The region remains in grey-lockdown level of the province’s COVID-19 response framework.

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The region’s pandemic case tally stands at 2,692, of which 2,422 have resolved, an increase of 27 from the day before. At least 48 deaths have been reported.


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At least 222 cases are active in Lambton. The number of people listed as being in the care of Bluewater Health rose by two on Thursday to a total of eight.

The number of cases that have screened variant positive rose by one to 72 as of Thursday the health unit said.

At least 579 cases have been reported in Lambton since the start of the month.

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A total of 16,454 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Lambton County, of which were 14,910 first doses and 1,544 were second doses, the health unit confirmed Wednesday.

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The health unit said the Mobile Immunization Team has completed all first and second doses to long-term care, high-risk retirement and Elder Care homes.

Clinics to vaccinate Indigenous adults continue to be held in all three local First Nations communities including Aamjiwnaang, Kettle and Stony Point, and Walpole Island.

Lambton Public Health is extending the time between first and second doses of either the Modern, Pfizer, or AstraZeneca to 16 weeks because of a decision from the Ontario Government and a recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).

Lambton Public Health said it will provide public communications regarding the process for second dose registrations to people who already have a first dose soon.

Immunizations are ongoing for individuals who are 75-plus years of age (or who are turning 75 this year) along with one in-home caregiver who resides in the same household. Vaccinations to health-care workers and adult recipients of chronic home health care are also continuing.

On Tuesday the health unit says it’s launching a pilot project to administer the Moderna vaccine to residents with high-risk chronic health conditions through four local primary care practice groups.

The groups, Central Lambton Family Health Team, Twin Bridges Nurse Practitioner Clinic, Rapids Family Health Team, and North Lambton Community Health Centre, have been given a total of 2,600 initial doses for the pilot, which begins this week.

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In a statement, the health unit says the plan hopes to increase access to vaccines to those eligible in the region, build primary care delivery capacity, and expand channels to distribute the vaccine.

More primary care groups will be able to join the pilot as supply of the vaccine becomes more stable and the AstraZeneca vaccine becomes more widely available.

The health unit notes the local pilot is not related to the one being operated by the province through pharmacies in select public health units. Lambton is not currently involved in the provincial pilot.

More information on the local vaccine rollout can be found on the health unit’s website.

Those eligible to book a vaccine appointment are asked to visit the health unit’s website or call 519-383-8331.


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One new case was reported at Gregory A. Hogan Catholic School in Sarnia by St. Clair Catholic District School Board.

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There are more than 80 school cases that are active in Lambton County, according to figures from the Lambton Kent District School Board and the St. Clair Catholic District School Board.

Seven outbreaks associated with schools are also active, the health unit says.

School outbreaks remain active at:

  • Brooke Central Public School (seven cases)
  • Confederation Central Public School (five cases)
  • Holy Trinity Catholic School (three cases)
  • King George Public School (two cases)
  • North Lambton Secondary School (13 cases)
  • Northern High School (two cases)
  • St. Patrick’s Catholic High School (two cases).

Meanwhile, no new outbreak was declared in long-term care and retirement homes and none have been resolved.

Including the seven aforementioned school outbreaks, seven remain active at seniors’ facilities in the county, declared on:

  • March 23 at Rosewood Retirement Village (one resident case)
  • March 20 at Fairwinds Lodge in Sarnia (one staff case)
  • March 19 at Afton Park Place in Sarnia (one resident case, two staff cases)
  • March 18 at Marshall Gowland Manor in Sarnia (one staff case)
  • March 16 at Sumac Lodge in Sarnia (one staff case)
  • March 11 at Trillium Villa in Sarnia (three staff cases)
  • March 11 at Vision Nursing Home in Sarnia (one staff case)

The health unit says the county’s test positivity rate was 3.3 per cent as of the week of March 7, up from 3.1 the week before and 1.7 a week before that. Updated numbers are expected this week.

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— With files from Matthew Trevithick, Gabby Rodrigues, Jacquelyn LeBel, and The Canadian Press

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