Local COVID cases continue to rise: Haldimand Norfolk in “one of the most problematic periods of the pandemic”

By Kaitlyn Clark

The Haldimand Press

HALDIMAND—The local health district has entered the new year with the highest seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases of the pandemic since summer, when a large outbreak caused numbers to spike drastically.

“We continue to be embroiled in this pandemic. We have had approximately 1,000 cases in the health district…. The past two weeks have been the most (new cases) that we have seen in a two-week period,” said local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai. “Overall, I would consider this to be one of the most problematic periods of the pandemic for Haldimand and Norfolk counties. We’re seeing many cases in the community, as well as outbreaks, so that makes me quite concerned.”

Outbreaks as of Monday, January 4, 2021 included four long term care facilities, three congregate living facilities, and three farms. Many of these had only reported a single staff member having tested positive as of press time. Proplant Propogation Services, a greenhouse facility in Jarvis, was the largest outbreak at that time with 25 people testing positive and in isolation since December 24, 2020.

“All the affected workers are feeling well and a handful of people have mild symptoms, including cough or fatigue. No workers have been hospitalized,” read a January 1 press release from Mike Berkel of Proplant. “The Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) will be completing additional testing and a public health management plan has been put in place. Proplant remains committed to ensuring all employees are safe and will be continuing to work with the HNHU.”

As of January 4, the seven-day rolling average for new daily cases in Haldimand Norfolk was 15. Previous spikes took place in early-April (12.0) and late-May (23.86) due to the outbreaks at Anson Place and Scotlynn Farms, which saw over 300 people test positive in relation to the two locations.

Not including the outbreaks in this figure, the seven-day rolling average of non-outbreak-related cases was 11.57 on January 4. This figure has been rising overall since October. Prior to October, the highest seven-day rolling average of new cases was 2.29 on April 9. This data suggests that community transmission is on the rise, and Nesathurai says the biggest culprit is group dining events.

“I recognize that there is some level of fatigue in trying to follow the public health guidance, but … when people have dining events with other households, that is one significant vector of transmission for COVID-19,” said Nesathurai. “So, I would ask people of Haldimand and Norfolk to stay within their household. That is one of the most effective methods to keep this under control.”

“I do think many people have tried to minimize get-togethers and other group events, but I still think there were more group events associated with the holidays and therefore I anticipate that we might have an increasing number of cases in the forthcoming days,” he added. “I think the Provincial government has to make decisions about what additional steps could be done to reduce the number of cases. Also, it is my hope that with vaccination at least we’ll be able to protect the most vulnerable people from COVID-19 – the elderly.”

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