Amid rising COVID cases in Simcoe County and across Canada, Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, held the first press conference since last month to provide an update.
COVID cases –
“We have surpassed 40,000 confirmed COVID cases in total since the beginning of the pandemic for Simcoe Muskoka. And we’ve had a total of 532 cases over the last three days, 170 cases a day,” he said.
“Over the past four weeks, we’ve remained higher than the provincial weekly incidents on a per capita basis.”
The total cases have gone up in recent weeks. During the week of April 3 to 9, there were 1284 cases compared to the previous week at 1095. “This is giving us an incidence of 208 cases per 100,000 population per week,” he said. “The province has a lower incidence per capita than ourselves right now at 148 cases per 100,000 population per week.”
Increased risk for unvaccinated –
Urging residents to get vaccinated, Dr. Gardner said that “those who are unvaccinated are three times more likely to be hospitalized than those who’ve had two or more doses of vaccine and are five times more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit and are three times more likely to die.”
Positivity and Hospitalization –
Dr. Gardner expressed concerns about a higher percentage positivity rate in the health district compared to the province.
“Our percent positivity is 20.2%, up from 16.5%. A week ago and this is compared at 19.4% for the province,” he said. “So literally it is the percent of tests that come back positive, so anything above 3% was of concern, certainly 20% very concerning.”
There are 22 COVID positive people in hospitals and divided equally between men and women, ages ranging between 40 to 90 years. “14% of them were unimmunized, 41% of them had two doses of immunization and 45% had received three doses of immunization,” Gardner said.
“We have had on average five deaths per week, since the week of February the 27th. And at this point have a total of 439 deaths.”
Even though the majority of hospitalized people have been immunized, due to their old age they would have been at much higher risk of dying without immunization. And there would have been a lot more hospitalization among old people without vaccination.
“So I think it’s very important for people to know that vaccination is important, but it is not going to be totally protected and people have to take other precautions,” he said.
Masks and Risk for Students –
It has been scientifically proven that masking helps reduce spread of COVID. However, excluding certain settings, Ontario eliminated masking in most of the places. Barrie Community Media asked Dr. Gardner about masking recommendations.
“It would be helpful, it would be part of your multi-layered approach,” he responded. “I don’t know what the reaction of the public would be, you might get a strong negative reaction to that, that might impact on compliance.”
In response to another question by Barrie Community Media about the infection data among international students and increased transmission among college students Dr. Gardner said “We don’t have a breakdown by groups with regards to origin. We have data with regards to age. When we had wider spread, broader testing happening in the community, we were able to break it down by local municipality, but not by origin of individuals.”
He advised institutions to look at multiple ways of reducing risk.
“Remote is the safest way if not that, and certainly if present, an optimizing ventilation, physical distancing mask use, hand hygiene and people screening and excluding themselves if they have symptoms or contact with a case,” he added.