‘Second wave’ seeing highest number of new cases provincially, deaths remain comparatively low

By Haldimand Press Staff

HALDIMAND—While the number of new daily cases across Ontario is hitting numbers not previously seen in the spring, surpassing 1,000 cases at least three times recently, the number of deaths each day is comparatively low.

From October 26 to November 1 there were between 4 to 10 COVID-19 deaths per day in Ontario, with an average of 905 new cases per day.

In comparison, six months ago there were between 24 to 86 deaths per day from April 26 to May 2, which includes the highest number of deaths recorded in a single day. However, while the death rate was significantly higher at that time, the daily new case average was only 446, less than half the 905 daily cases seen last week.

Some residents are now questioning why the death rate has not raised at the same rate of new cases, and if new cases are due only to increased testing and false positives.

The Press reached out to the Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) for comment. Matt Terry, Director of Communications for Norfolk County, stated, “We would expect increased levels of testing to result in more cases being identified. You might recall that at the beginning of the pandemic we frequently reminded the public that the number of cases in the community was likely much higher than what we reported, due to a lack of testing.”

“We would also expect more cases to result from social gatherings such as Thanksgiving,” continued Terry, echoing previous concerns from local Medical Officer of Health Shanker Nesathurai that this type of gathering would increase the rate of transmission. Nesathurai continues to be concerned for the upcoming Friday the 13th celebrations this month. He has previously warned people from assuming too much from the data available, as changes to the data could have multiple causes.

“It’s important to remember that the majority of COVID-19-related deaths in our jurisdiction are associated with a single outbreak, at Anson Place, which took place earlier in the year,” noted Terry. Only four of Haldimand and Norfolk’s 32 COVID-19 related deaths occurred outside of two major outbreaks in the counties. These outbreaks support Nesathurai’s repeated pleas to “break the chain of transmission” in order to avoid cases among at-risk residents, such as the elderly. Anson Place saw about 70 residents and over 30 staff members test positive, but all 27 of the deaths at the home occurred among residents. The Vittoria farm saw approximately double the number of positive cases compared to Anson Place, but a 55-year-old man was the only death in the outbreak.

After the first surge of cases in hundreds of long-term care and retirement homes across the country in the spring saw thousands of deaths, many homes and provinces enacted new protocols to limit further outbreaks and cases. There has been a significant increase in outbreaks at congregate homes in the last month or so, although Ontario now defines an outbreak in at-risk settings as a single case among clients or staff.

One potential explanation for the current death rate being much lower compared to the spring is the increase in cases among young people. The greatest increase of new cases in the so-called ‘second wave’ has been seen in those under 40, particularly those aged 20-29. In a presentation to the Board of Health earlier this month, Nesathurai reported that nearly one third (approximately 31%) of those over 80 years old who contract COVID-19 will succumb to the disease. For those between 60-79, this number drops to approximately 9%. Chance of death drops significantly as the age of the infected lowers. For example, on November 2, those in their 20s led Ontario with 16,085 of the total 77,655 positive cases (21%), but only four out of 3,152 deaths fell in this age category (0.13%). Meanwhile, those over 60 made up over 95% of Ontario’s COVID-19 related deaths.

Terry said he could not comment on the situation provincially, and a request for comment from the Ministry of Health had been received but not answered as of press time.

 

Local outbreaks of COVID-19

Locally, there are currently no outbreaks at any long-term care or retirement homes in Haldimand or Norfolk. However, outbreaks

(with one to two students) were declared lo-

cally at River Heights Public School and McKinnon Park, Dunnville, and Hagersville secondary schools recently. In total, 558 of the province’s 4,828 publicly funded schools currently have a reported case of COVID-19, with 2,228 cases having originated from schools.

Cayuga’s Sunday morning men’s hockey league announced October 27 that six individuals “associated” with the league tested positive. Steve Gauld, a league organizer, stated, “These individuals are currently self-isolating. The league is working with Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit to effectuate a public health management plan. At the current time, the (league) has suspended play.”

Stelco’s Lake Erie Works Pickle Line Facility announced November 1 that three employees had tested positive, prompting HNHU to declare an outbreak in that facility.

“Stelco’s other operations at Lake Erie Works and Hamilton Works are not affected. At this time, the three employees from the pickle line facility are isolating…. A public health management plan has been put in place,” read the release. “Upon being advised of an employee testing positive for COVID-19, Stelco immediately implemented its response plan, including conducting a deep cleaning of the entire pickle line facility…. Since the outset of the pandemic, Stelco has instituted a strict set of policies and procedures based on the best available advice  from public health agencies.”

Updates

Grandview Lodge has declared a COVID-19 outbreak. As a result of protocols requiring regular testing of Grandview Lodge staff to ensure safety of residents, on Tuesday, November 3 three staff within the home were confirmed to have tested positive. The staff members are currently self-isolating. For the protection of the residents, and in accordance with Ministry of Health requirements, all visits within the home are suspended effective immediately. 

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