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Easter visits add to COVID-19 increases

·3 min read

CORNWALL – The affects of Easter weekend gatherings are beginning to show in the region’s COVID-19 cases.

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit region added 107 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, which Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis attributed, in large part, to private gatherings over Easter.

The increased numbers, reported on April 12th, pushed the active case tally for the region to 453, and the overall tally to 3,807 since the pandemic began.

Roumeliotis said that the EOHU’s contact tracing over the past weekend indicated that most of the new cases are due to family gatherings over Easter.

“This is exactly what we’re seeing right now,” he explained. “One of the things we are worried about moving forward is kids being home, getting together, then going back to school with even higher rates.”

Roumeliotis said that the latest cases included many school-aged children. He explained that from a peak of 170 cases in school-aged children in January, the numbers dipped to just 34 in February.

“In March, we went up to 96, and in April we are up to 99,” Roumeliotis said.

At the current rate for April, if left unchecked by further restrictions, the region could have seen nearly 250 cases in school-age children by the end of the month.

“That’s one of the reasons we were worried about schools,” he said, adding that he supported the provincial move to remote learning after this week’s Spring Break.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced earlier on Monday that schools are to switch to remote-learning when classes resume April 19th.

“I do agree with the school closures,” Roumeliotis said, explaining that he still believed schools are safe. “[Schools] have the precautions in place. The problem arises that the more [cases] you have in the community the more it will pierce into the schools and the more it will disrupt the schools.”

So far this month, seven schools have been ordered closed by the EOHU due to higher case numbers. Over 40 per cent of the 87 schools in the EOHU region have at least one positive COVID-19 case.

According to Ontario Ministry of Health data, there are 56 students and 13 staff who have tested positive for the virus in the past 14 days. The largest cluster of cases are the École secondaire catholique de Casselman where 10 students and two staff members are positive for COVID-19.

Looking at local numbers, South Dundas has seen no new cases diagnosed in the past week, leaving the municipal tally at 75 cases overall. The number of active cases has dropped to just four.

North Dundas has increased to 111 total and seven active cases; South Stormont has 250 total and 30 active cases; North Stormont has had 90 total and 17 active cases.

A week into “emergency brake” and less than a week into a stay-at-home order, there are no signs of the curve of new infections slowing yet.

The region’s seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 people is at 120, and the reproductive rate is 1.26, which is higher than Ottawa (1.25) and Toronto (1.16).

Vaccination clinics continue to operate out of the six main centres in the region, the closest points for South Dundas include Winchester and Cornwall.

As of April 12th, almost 34,000 doses of vaccine, primarily the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, have been given. Approximately 16 per cent of the total population of the EOHU region have received at least one dose of vaccine. The only groups that have received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine are residents of long-term care and retirement homes.

Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader