One new death and 97 new coronavirus cases have been reported in London and Middlesex, local health officials said Wednesday, marking the largest single-day case jump the region has seen in two and a half months.
Additionally, at least three more cases have screened variant positive.
The update comes as the region grapples with a growing third wave of the pandemic, driven in part by a rise in cases involving variants of concern.
The region’s pandemic case tally stood at 7,091 as of Wednesday, of which 6,398 had resolved, an increase of 33 from the day before.
The local COVID-19 death toll now stands at 188, after the health unit reported a death on Wednesday for the second day in a row that involved a man in his 80s who was not associated with a long-term care or retirement home.
At least 505 cases are currently active in London-Middlesex, the health unit says.
The health unit has reported at least 911 cases since the beginning of the month, with about half, 454, reported just since Tuesday of last week. March has also seen at least 145 cases reported to have screened variant positive.
The region’s seven-day rolling case average stands at 60.28 as of Wednesday, up from 26.85 the previous seven days.
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Of the 97 new cases reported Wednesday, at least 87 are from London while eight are from Middlesex County. Two are pending location data.
More than half of those infected, about 54 per cent, are under the age of 30, health unit data shows.
At least 27 are aged 19 or younger while 26 are in their 20s, 11 are in their 40s, 10 each are in their 30s, 50s, and 60s, and three are in their 70s.
Exposure source data is pending or undetermined for 62 of the 97 new cases, while 13 are listed as being due to close contact and 13 to outbreaks. At least nine have no known link.
During Monday’s media briefing, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, remarked that moving to red alone wouldn’t solve the region’s rising case numbers.
“What we need is a wholesale change in our attitudes and behaviours about indoor gathering,” he said. “We must keep our gatherings outdoors. Stay outdoors, please.”
“There is no good reason for a social gathering indoors right now.”
“I don’t care where it is or who it’s with. Keep your gatherings outdoors,” he continued.
The health unit says at least 157 of the region’s overall cases have been screened and found to have a spike gene mutation consistent with one or more of the three variants being tracked by the province.
An additional six have undergone further genomic sequencing and have been confirmed to involve the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K.
According to Public Health Ontario, the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant has been associated with only the N501Y spike gene mutation, while variants B.1.351 and P.1, first detected in South Africa and Brazil respectively, have been associated with spike gene mutations N501Y, K417N, and E484K.
As a result, the province is now presuming that any cases that screen positive for just the N501Y mutation involve the B.1.1.7 variant and are not sending them for further genomic sequencing.
(In London-Middlesex, at least 144 cases have screened positive for just the N501Y mutation. Most have not undergone genomic sequencing as a result, meaning they aren’t reflected in MLHU’s “confirmed” variant tally. It’s not clear whether they will be added at a future date.)
The health unit says at least nine cases have screened positive for both the N501Y and the E484K spike gene mutations — two more than Tuesday — while four have screened positive for just the E484K mutation. The 13 cases are undergoing genomic sequencing.
People under 30 account for nearly two-thirds of all local cases that have screened positive for a spike gene mutation associated with a variant. At least 48 have involved people 19 or younger while 53 have involved people in their 20s.
Provincewide, variants of concern account for 67 per cent of Ontario coronavirus infections, according to the latest brief published by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
The variants come with a 63 per cent increased risk of hospitalization, 103 per cent increased risk of ICU admission, and a 56 per cent increased risk of death due to COVID-19, the brief says.
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At least 6,196 cases have been confirmed in the city of London since the pandemic began, while 275 have been in Middlesex Centre.
Elsewhere, 231 cases have been in Strathroy-Caradoc, 102 in Thames Centre, 60 in Lucan Biddulph, 43 in Southwest Middlesex, 41 in North Middlesex, 14 in Adelaide Metcalfe and two in Newbury.
At least 127 cases have pending location information.
Eighteen COVID-19 patients were listed as being in the care of London Health Sciences Centre on Wednesday, an increase of three from the day before.
Five or fewer are in critical care or intensive care, unchanged from Tuesday.
At least nine LHSC staff are currently positive with the virus, an increase of two from the day before, the organization said.
At St. Joseph’s Health Care London, meantime, no COVID-19 patients are listed as being in the care of St. Joseph’s Hospital.
On Wednesday, the organization reported that six non-outbreak staff cases were active along with two new cases linked to an outbreak — one involving a patient and one involving a staff member. An outbreak was declared late Tuesday in Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building.
It’s not clear where within SJHCL the other six non-outbreak-related staff cases are located.
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Provincewide, there are now more COVID-19 patients in Ontario intensive care units than at any other point in the pandemic, according to a new report from Critical Care Services Ontario.
It counted 421 hospital patients with COVID-related critical illness as of midnight.
Figures have shown that more younger people are ending up in hospital. The number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs under 60 is roughly 50 per cent higher than it was at the start of the lockdown, according to a brief published earlier this week by the province’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
The brief also found that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario is more than 21 per cent higher than it was at the start of December’s lockdown.
The rise in hospitalizations is being pinned in large part on the rising number of cases involving more contagious variants of concern.
One new institutional outbreak has been declared and one has resolved, the health unit said Wednesday.
The new outbreak was declared late Tuesday at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building in area G5. St. Joseph’s Health Care London reports there are two cases linked to outbreaks within its organization, one involving a patient and one involving a staff member. The Parkwood outbreak is its only active outbreak.
The resolved outbreak, meantime, had been located at Glendale Crossing in its Brighton area. The outbreak had been declared March 11.
As of Wednesday, three institutional outbreaks remain active in the region, with one at Henley Place Long-Term Care Residence (Victoria Unit), one at Kensington Village (LTC – first floor) and the outbreak at Parkwood.
Elsewhere, 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 30 inmate and 29 staff cases.
At least one inmate case was listed active at the jail as of Monday, according to provincial data. Similar information was not immediately available for staff cases.
Non-institutional outbreaks are also active at three separate Western University student residences. One was declared over late Tuesday.
At least one new school case has been reported in the region.
The case was reported late Tuesday by the Thames Valley District School Board at Northridge Public School in London.
It’s among at least 15 school cases that are active in London-Middlesex, the health unit says. A full list can be found on the MLHU website.
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Outbreaks remain active at two schools — Riverbend Academy and Woodland Heights Public School. Both had one active case each as of Wednesday.
Health officials say that at least 246 cases have been reported at local elementary and secondary schools, while 29 have been reported at child care and early years settings.
Two cases were listed as active at child care/early years settings Wednesday, with one at Little Acorns Early Childhood Learning Centre – London Bridge and one at London Children’s Connection – Mountsfield Before and After School.
In post-secondary, Western University officials are implementing tighter safety measures to clamp down on a rise in on-campus cases.
At least three outbreaks are currently active at student residences, while another separate community outbreak is active that has been linked to a gathering or gatherings involving business students.
One student residence outbreak, declared on March 2 in Essex Hall, was declared over on Tuesday, the same day health officials declared a new outbreak at the university’s Elgin Hall. Ontario Hall and Saugeen-Maitland Hall are the other impacted residences.
In all, the five recent outbreaks have been linked to more than 43 cases, judging by initial case numbers. The figure is likely higher now.
In response, the university is mandating that everyone on campus wear a three-layer, non-medical mask indoors and in the presence of others.
Students in residence are also now required to wear face coverings at all times outside of their bedrooms, and on-campus staff are required to wear a face shield if working within six feet of each other along with eye protection.
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Western officials are also tending with an unspecified number of cases involving staff from the university’s Facilities Management division, according to an internal memo obtained by Global News. The impacted staff work in “FM Operations and Stores,” according to the memo.
“As well, numerous people have been flagged as close contacts and are required to quarantine. We need to focus on the health and safety of our staff and stop this spread,” the memo states.
“As a result, we have taken the dramatic action of temporarily sending all FM Operations Trades Staff home effective today through Monday April 5th.”
The memo does not state how many staff have tested positive, but it does note that one confirmed case has also been reported involving a member of the separate Building Services department.
Vaccinations and testing
Vaccine eligibility opened up Wednesday to more priority groups, including adults 16 and older with certain health conditions deemed by the province to be highest risk.
It comes days after members of the general population aged 70-74 became eligible to receive a shot. Those who are turning 70 this year are also eligible.
The health unit says that as of Wednesday, the following additional groups are now vaccine eligible:
- Adults 16 and older with highest-risk health conditions, including those who are haematological malignancy diagnosed, who are hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients, who have kidney disease eGFR< 30, who have neurological diseases in which respiratory function may be compromised, and who are organ transplant recipients. One primary essential caregiver is also eligible. The health unit says people will be contacted by their specialty clinic on how to book an appointment.
- Residents, primary essential caregivers, and staff of high-risk congregate living settings, including adult correctional facilities, anti-human trafficking residences, bail beds and Indigenous bail beds, emergency homeless shelters, employer-provided living accommodations for temporary foreign agricultural workers, Indigenous healing and wellness, provincial and demonstration schools, other homeless populations not in shelters, supportive housing, violence against women shelters, youth justice facilities, and more. The health unit says the facility must pre-register with the health unit, and says the facility will be contacting residents, caregivers, and staff on how to book an appointment.
More information on eligibility can be found on the health unit’s website.
Eligible residents are asked to visit covidvaccinelm.ca or call 226-289-3560 to book an appointment. Online appointments are encouraged due to the high call volume. New appointments are added daily around 7 p.m., the health unit says.
Roughly 78,380 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered locally as of March 28, the most recent figures available. Roughly 13,600 doses were given out the week of March 22.
On Wednesday, the federal government announced that a new influenza vaccine facility will be built in Toronto to help bolster Canada’s biomanufacturing capacity.
Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the federal government will spend $415 million in partnership with Sanofi Pasteur Ltd. and the Ontario government to build the new facility by 2027.
The federal government said the new facility will have the ability to produce enough vaccine doses to support the entire Canadian population within about six months of the World Health Organization identifying a pandemic flu strain.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government will contribute $55 million to the project and Sanofi will provide more than $455 million.
Canada’s ability to manufacture its own vaccines and personal protective equipment has been a hot-button issue throughout the pandemic.
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 429 daily visits between March 15 and 19, while Oakridge Arena saw an average of 346.
The region’s test positivity rate stood at 1.6 per cent as of the week of March 14, up from 1.2 the previous week.
Updated figures are expected this week.
Ontario is reporting 2,333 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and 15 more deaths linked to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 785 new cases in Toronto, 433 in Peel Region, and 222 in York Region.
She also says there are 153 new cases in Hamilton, 124 in Ottawa and 120 in Durham Region.
More than 52,500 tests were completed since the last daily update.
The province says 1,973 cases were resolved since the last daily update.
There are 1,111 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario, 396 people are intensive care, and 252 are on a ventilator.
Ontario says 89,873 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Tuesday’s report. A total of 2,192,253 vaccine doses have been given in the province so far.
— This article will be updated with figures from neighbouring health units.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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