COVID-19: London-area well being items push small financial institution vacation gatherings amid rising case numbers


With the holiday season fast approaching and amid concerns about rising local rates of COVID-19 and the new Omicron variant, residents of the London area are being urged to keep bank holiday gatherings small indoors, get vaccinated and remotely where possible to work.

The recommendations come in a joint letter issued on Thursday by the acting health officer at the Middlesex-London Health Unit and health officers from Huron Perth Public Health and Southwestern Public Health.

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The letter doesn’t add to any restrictions or gathering restrictions already in place by the province, but is intended to inform residents what they can do to limit the spread of COVID-19 over the holiday as people without masks gather indoors, officials said .

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The recommendations, which take effect immediately and will be re-evaluated in four weeks, “strongly recommend” the following:

  • Everyone limits indoor social gatherings in private homes to no more than 10 people. All participants aged 12 and over should be vaccinated.
  • All unvaccinated persons aged 12 and over avoid any unnecessary indoor contact with persons who do not belong to their household.
  • Where possible, individuals work remotely.

During Thursday’s COVID-19 media briefing, Dr. Addressing the pandemic fatigue many residents are facing, Alex Summers, the London and Middlesex region’s acting health officer, said the extra steps were important to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

“We know this is not the news that people want to hear on December 9th,” he said, noting that his own family vacation plans were being canceled or postponed.

“These are not easy days. But again, it’s the efforts we can make to limit close contact to … 15 to 30 percent … that will hopefully avoid the rising case numbers, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths that we want to avoid.”

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Summers was greeted during the briefing by Dr. Joyce Lock, Southwestern Public Health’s health officer, and Dr. Miriam Klassen, Health Officer of Huron Perth Public Health.

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“Ontario has done really well over the last few months in managing the transmission of COVID and as such there are more opportunities, there are more settings for us to rally to. But every time we come into contact with other people, the risk increases,” Klassen said.

“Ask yourself, ‘Which meetings are most important to me?’ And then when you gather with others, ask yourself, ‘How can I make them as safe as possible?’” e.g. B. by using Zoom calls or outdoors.

The letter of recommendation also calls for local residents to get vaccinated if they are not already, noting that while breakthrough cases can occur in fully vaccinated individuals, “the illness experienced is of shorter duration and much less severe”.

“Unvaccinated individuals are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and at higher risk of serious health consequences if they do become infected. The delta variant, which is the dominant variant in Ontario, spreads quickly and easily and will find those who are most vulnerable.”

Officials say vaccination alone is not enough, and reducing the number of people in close contact can prevent serious illness and hospitalizations among those most at risk.

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The recommendations come two days after the first case of the Omicron variant was confirmed in London-Middlesex, which was identified as part of a larger group of at least 50 positive COVID-19 cases originally linked to two travelers who Came to London from Nigeria late last month.

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Scientists are still trying to learn how easily Omicron, first identified in South Africa, spreads, whether it causes more severe disease than previous variants, and how much it might evade protection from a previous vaccination.

Summers said it’s likely that Omicron will overtake Delta as the predominant variant globally and across the province, and “I think it will be sooner rather than later.”

“We’re consistently seeing the vaccine provide sustained protection against all variant types, including Omicron, versus what we’ve seen to date when it comes to hospitalizations,” he said.

The outstanding question, Summers said, is how effective the current vaccines are at preventing infection and transmission of the Omicron variant.

“There is growing evidence that the third dose booster may be an important part of sustained protection, at least in other countries,” he said.

“Obviously we have a very different context here in Ontario because of the delayed second dose for the majority of people in our province. So we really have to see what happens.”

The total number of Omicron cases currently confirmed in the region is four, but health officials are noting that the recent spike in local COVID-19 cases is due to the already prevalent Delta variant.

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Transmission, particularly that over the past six to eight weeks, has been driven by unregulated, familiar settings such as homes where people do not need to be vaccinated, do not wear masks and are close to friends and family. said summer.

“It’s in homes, in the comfortable but familiar areas, where transmission occurs, and that’s what these recommendations speak for,” Summers said, noting that the province’s science table indicated that greatly reducing close contacts would help to keep the local hospital system from being overwhelmed.

“If that’s not enough, then we need to look at additional restrictions in malls, sporting events, public events, etc.”

On Wednesday, the seven-day moving average of daily cases in the region stood at 37.6, up from 19.3 a week earlier.

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Earlier this week, Ontario’s pandemic advisors predicted the province’s hospitals could be burdened with potentially 3,000 daily new infections by mid-January, even without Omicron, if contacts don’t change and only 30 percent of infants vaccinated.

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Given these projections, why not issue something stronger than formal recommendations, health officials were asked during the briefing.

Southwestern Public Health’s Lock responded that throughout the pandemic, the majority of residents have committed to doing their part to limit the spread of the virus by following issued health guidelines and getting vaccinated.

“We are happy that we can vaccinate people. This time last year, with those kind of numbers, we would have been in gray lockdown, but we’re not. Our stores are open, our stores are open,” Lock said.

“This is just a reminder and we expect our citizens to continue to step up as they continue to do their part to get us through the pandemic.”

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The three were also asked if they expect fully vaccinated residents who refrained from hosting major holiday events last year to listen to the new recommendations.

“That’s something none of us want to hear, that cases are increasing and that there’s a new variant that’s spreading more easily. However, we all also understand what needs to be done,” said Klassen of Huron Perth Public Health.

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“We are asking everyone to think about what they can bring to the table and what they can do to reduce the risk, not only to themselves but also as a population.”

Ontario recorded nearly 1,300 new cases Thursday, the highest number of daily cases in the province since late May.

Meanwhile, the provincial scientific advisory table recommended that health officials conduct voluntary rapid testing in settings like schools and workplaces in higher transmission areas, even two to three times a week in some situations.

The recommendations focus on testing unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people, but say that in areas where daily new cases reach 175 per 100,000 people per week, it could be offered voluntarily to vaccinated people as well.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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