COVID-19 cases on the rise as fourth wave hits
Now officially in a fourth wave of the pandemic, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner says vaccines are an essential tool to fight against illness, especially as students and staff prepare to return to school.
Gardner says the region has experienced its fourth straight week of increased cases after a steady 13-week decline in cases previously recorded. This accounts for a 168 per cent increase in cases, with local cases rising more steeply than the province as a whole.
“We find that all of our cases of COVID-19 in the past week have been due to variants of concern and almost all of those cases have been the Delta variant (99 per cent). This very transmissible form of COVID-19 that is really behind the present fourth wave of COVID-19 in the province,” said Gardner.
According to the stats, there have been 68 new cases reported to the health unit for the current week. There were 99 new cases reported to the health unit last week (week of August 8), 168 per cent or more than 2.5 times higher than the 37 cases reported for the week of August 1.
Once again, the high case count is hindering the health unit’s ability to meet targets for contact tracing.
As in each wave, children and young adults continue to have the highest incidence of cases.
Gardner said that the Delta variant is causing waves, even in places where there is a significant amount of vaccination is a testament to how serious it is and that is why the other control measures continue to be very important.
The health unit is preparing to close its mass immunization clinics and switch to targeted walk-in clinics as the vaccine rate slows. This is due to having already vaccinated the population that is eager to be vaccinated and can easily get to a clinic. Now, attention is turning to those that cannot easily access a clinic or are hesitant to be vaccinated.
Gardner said the Delta variant is proving to be a higher risk to children than other strains.
As of Thursday, youth born in 2009, even if they have not yet turned 12, are able to be vaccinated. 55 per cent of youth have had two doses of vaccine and in order for students to be considered fully protected before going back to school they will have to receive their second dose by August 24.
As per provincial direction, the health unit is working on setting up vaccine clinics at schools in the first couple of weeks of September but the details and locations have yet to be determined.
“For a person who has two doses of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) they’ve probably got about an 85 per cent reduction in their risk of contacting COVID-19 and having any symptoms and more than a 95 per cent reduction in having a severe case requiring hospitalization or ICU admission so we do expect that we are going to see cases occurring among some who are immunized but the great majority of cases so far are among those who are not immunized,” said Gardner.
This week, the province has announced it will pause its exit from Step 3 of its Roadmap to Reopen, limiting outdoor social gatherings and organized public events to 100 people and indoor gatherings to 25 people.
Controls are also being required to ensure certain workplace employees are vaccinated or receive regular testing including hospitals, home care, community care service providers and paramedics. Similar measures are coming down the pipe for publicly funded schools and child care settings.