Local COVID stats down slightly as holiday approaches

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

HALDIMAND—Haldimand-Norfolk’s seven day rolling average for new daily COVID cases is sitting at 9.9 per day, down from a peak of 18 per day a week and a half ago. Additionally, hospitalization rates are holding steady, with only four residents hospitalized at the time of publication, although all four were in the ICU.

Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Matt Strauss cautioned, “All of these numbers need to be taken into account with provincial modelling, which shows cases likely to increase throughout the winter. Certainly, we’re not declaring any victory yet, but it has been a bit of a happier week.”

Former COVID Vaccine Team Lead Sarah Page has returned to her normal job as Chief of Paramedic Services for Norfolk County, but she left on a high note, logging the region’s 150,000th dose of vaccine administered during her last day in the role.

Vaccination of children aged 5-11 is proceeding smoothly so far locally, with 15% of that age range now having received at least one dose.

Too early to comment on Omicron variant

The Omicron variant has been confirmed in several areas in Ontario. Strauss said, “It sure seems to me that most of what can be said is still quite preliminary and I wouldn’t want to get ahead of the science.”

When asked if the new variant concerns him considering areas of lower vaccination, such as Dunnville, Strauss responded, “Low vaccination rates worry me. The chief priority from a public health point of view with regards to this pandemic is to increase vaccination rates. In large measure, we did.” 

He continued, “In September we were fifth from the bottom in public health units. A couple months later we were 15th from the bottom.… If Omicron comes, I don’t know what the results will be, but I know the results are likely to be worse if you’re unvaccinated.”

This Christmas compared to last

Strauss believes we are in a far better position this holiday season compared to the same time last year, noting 85% of the adult population is vaccinated and there is also “some amount of natural immunity in our community. I don’t see any possible way that this Christmas could be as bad as last Christmas given this incredible achievement.”

Strauss cautioned against abandoning health guidelines for indoor gatherings: “It’s not time to declare victory over this virus.”

Strauss has spoken to the MOH in Oxford and Elgin counties, who have re-introduced capacity limitations for indoor gatherings and public distancing guidelines due to a surge of new cases and hospitalizations: “Given the trends I outlined, I don’t see a pressing need for consideration of such a move.”

He issued some final advice for the holidays: “The most overwhelmingly important thing is that you get vaccinated…. If you’re vaccinated, you should feel confident that you’re 95% protected against hospitalization and death.”