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COVID-19: Here's the situation in the Sault this week

Algoma reported its first COVID-19 death this week
20200301-Algoma Public Health, winter, stock-DT-02
Algoma Public Health. File photo, Darren Taylor/SooToday

New confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province ranged this week between a low of 1,913 and a high of 3,422.

While cases have been collectively lower this week than in recent weeks previous, Dr. David Williams, Ontario's Medical Officer of Health, says new cases must fall below 1,000 per day before lockdown measures in the province can be lifted. 

Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said this week that while Ontario's COVID-19 numbers are showing improvement, it is too soon to say if that's the start of a downward trend.

On Saturday morning, the provincial government announced it was extending all emergency orders currently in effect until Feb. 19.

Algoma Public Health reports first COVID-19 death in the region

On Monday, APH reported the first COVID-19 death within its district.

The health unit reported six new cases between Friday night and Monday morning, five from Sault Ste. Marie and area, and one from the central and east Algoma region.

Throughout the week, APH reported seven new cases.

Sault College has confirmed that APH notified the institution that a member of its school community tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday.  The person is self isolating, stated Rick Webb, Sault College human resources and communications director, in an email to SooToday received Friday.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers from Algoma Public Health, updated today at 1:20 p.m.:

  • 81,572 tested
  • 149 confirmed 
  • 19 active case
  • 0 currently hospitalized
  • 130 resolved
  • One deceased

There are currently no active cases in non-Algoma residents temporarily in the region.

According to data on, a University of Toronto-led website which collects and analyzes data from Ontario's COVID-19 cases, 69 per cent of ICU beds in Algoma Public Health's jurisdiction are currently occupied. There are currently no COVID-19 ICU patients in the Algoma region.

On Sunday, Algoma District School Board (ADSB) confirmed a positive case linked to R.M Moore.

Total confirmed cases by area of residence: 

  • 127 in Sault Ste. Marie and area, with evidence of community spread
  • 19 in central and east Algoma
  • Three in Elliot Lake and area
  • 0 in north Algoma

Comparatively, in Chippewa County, which covers Sault Ste. Marie Mi. and surrounding area, the COVID-19 data as of today states:

  • 1,671 cumulative positives
  • 1,184 cumulative recovered
  • 18 cumulative deaths
  • Four cases currently hospitalized

High schools to reopen, ADSB hopes to see 'many' elementary kids return to class on Monday

The Algoma District School Board has told parents that it hopes to see "many" elementary children return to class on Monday as Algoma Public Health lifts restrictions that kept Sault high schools closed for the last two weeks.

While high schools were closed, the ADSB had "strongly encouraged" elementary parents to keep their children home if possible and to continue with online learning.

The APH instruction to boards was lifted on Thursday, meaning ADSB high schools will reopen on Monday and elementary parents whose kids are learning at home are being asked to consider having their children return to classrooms.

Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board has called the return to school 'a true sign of hope.'

ADSB has also released programming to assist students and support their mental health during the COVID-19 lockdown.

OPP urge Ontarians not to call 911 to ask about province's stay-at-home order

Provincial police are urging people not to call 911 with questions about Ontario's stay-at-home order, which came into effect last Thursday. Officers are reminding the public that 911 is only to be used for emergencies. 

Garden River restricts access to residents, essential workers only

The Garden River Detachment of the Anishinabek Police Service reminds area residents that access to Garden River First Nation is restricted to Garden River residents and essential service providers only.

A check point has been set up at Syrette Lake Road, and emergency access is available at the east and west boundaries of Highway 17B.

Read the full release here.

Here's the latest on Canada's vaccine procurement

Canada's deliveries of Pfizer will face a pause as the manufacturer announced it was reducing deliveres over the next month.

More than half a million Canadians have been vaccinated against COVID-19 thus far, and more than 822,000 doses of the two approved vaccines have been delivered from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

But all provinces are being forced to revisit their vaccination programs after Pfizer suddenly told Canada on Friday morning it would be cutting the doses delivered in half over the next four weeks, while it upgrades its factory in Belgium. Pfizer was to ship 735,150 doses to Canada between Jan. 18 and Feb. 14.

In terms of vaccinating members of remote First Nations communities, Indigenous leaders say that earning the trust of the people must be a priority.

Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization that represents 49 of Ontario's 123 First Nations, said that the most obvious hurdle of Operation Remote Immunity is geography, as those remote communities may not have an airstrip and must have their winter roads built in time for the vaccine to be delivered.

But he said that even more important than the physical logistics of delivering the vaccine is ensuring that Indigenous people are willing to accept it.

Meanwhile, the head of the Ontario Medical Association says dangerous misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines is spreading on social media among all age groups.

The association's analysis of more than 65,000 recent online posts in Ontario shows that conspiracy theories about the origin of the novel coronavirus and fears that vaccines are dangerous and untested run particularly rampant among people under the age of 35.

A member of Ontario's COVID-19 Vaccination Distribution Task Force has joined the list of public health officials who have resigned from their position after travelling during the pandemic. Lisa Hasenfratz travelled outside of the country in December and has since stepped down.

Some good news in the fight against COVID-19 came from Premier Doug Ford on Tuesday, as he announced the Ontario government is ahead of schedule when it comes to providing vaccines to the province's long-term care home residents.

Health experts have weighed in on COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace and what workers and employers rights are in refusing the vaccine. Read more on what they had to say here.

Ever notice Ontario's COVID-19 test processing dips on Tuesdays? Here's why

In its daily updates, Ontario Health provides data on the latest COVID-19 cases, and that includes the testing done by more than 40 labs across the province. 

According to an email from Ontario Health to Village Media, the fluctuation in tests processed is a direct result of how many specimens are sent in. 

“On a Tuesday, we may see a lower number of tests processed than specimens received as the labs are processing Monday’s volumes,” stated the email. 

Read more from the province here.

Northern Ontario's big-box stores, essential workplaces subject to future COVID-19 inspection blitzes

Big-box stores and workplaces accessible to the public and deemed essential — such as grocery stores — across Northern Ontario could face targeted government enforcement of COVID-safety requirements, just as their southern counterparts recently have.

Last weekend, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) engaged in a workplace inspection blitz in GTHA big-box stores and found only 69 per cent compliance on 240 visits with 23 tickets and 53 orders issued which included violations for failing to screen customers and staff, improper mask-wearing, and unsafe distancing.

"Further blitzes for other regions in the province will be announced in the coming weeks," the ministry told Village Media this week. Read the full story here.

Province urged to improve conditions in long-term care homes

Ontario physicians are calling on the province to provide paid sick days for Personal Support Workers (PSWs) and other long-term care home (LTCH) workers in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario's long-term care homes.

There is also a recommendation that government needs to invest more money to improve internet infrastructure in Northern Ontario with the result of being able to improve virtual care.

These are just a couple of several calls to action by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) to fight against the forecasts that say more deaths will be occurring in long-term care homes.  

A group of health experts advising Ontario on COVID-19 also says the province should improve working conditions and minimize temporary staffing in long-term care homes to protect residents from the virus.

In a new report, the group says infections and deaths among long-term care residents are speeding up, mirroring the spread in the community at large.

Ontario's independent commission into long-term care homes also heard grievances against the province's facilities this week. Residents of Ontario long-term care homes described the devastating impact of the prolonged isolation brought on by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as they testified before an independent commission earlier this month.

A group of residents spoke to the Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission through video conference on Jan. 13, laying out the intense loneliness and deteriorating mental health experienced by them and their peers.

Read more from the group here.

Ontario patients to be ranked for life-saving care should ICUs become full

Hospitals in Ontario have received a much-anticipated document that lays out the criteria to be used if intensive care units fill up and medical resources are scarce.

According to the document, titled "Adult Critical Care Clinical Emergency Standard of Care for Major Surge" and prepared by the province's critical care COVID-19 command centre - patients will be scored by doctors on a "short-term mortality risk assessment."

Fort Creek, Hiawatha to remain open during stay-at-home order

Fort Creek Conservation Area and Hiawatha Highlands will join city-run outdoor recreational facilities in remaining open to the public over the duration of the provincial stay-at-home order. 

The conservation authority wants to remind the public that its conservation areas are not maintained during the winter months. 

The trails at Hiawatha Highlands will also remain open and groomed, according to a recent post on its website. 

Meanwhile, Sault Trailblazers says it has not received direction from the health unit to keep snowmobile trails in the Algoma District closed. What has kept local snowmobile trails closed is a lack of a snow. 

COVID-19 changes the way churches, pastors interact with people

When COVID-19 restrictions first hit Ontario (and the rest of the world) last spring, the world was taken by surprise.

In a globally convulsing sense of ‘what do we do now?’ individuals and workplaces who were able to quickly adapt to operating online did so.

That ‘COVID revolution’ included churches.

Read more about what the second provincial COVID-19 state of emergency has meant for pastors and churches in terms of connecting with people online here.

Municipality of Huron Shores extends closures due to ongoing pandemic

As the provincial state of emergency remains in place, the Municipality of Huron Shores has extended their safety measures currently in place.

Read more on what is open and what is closed in the Municipality of Huron Shores here.

Helping Hands still open for curbside service

Sault Ste. Marie Helping Hands, after receiving permission from Algoma Public Health (APH), is operating as an essential service during the current COVID-19 state of emergency.

Read more from the organization here.

Applications for business COVID relief grant now being accepted

The province is now accepting applications through its Small Business Support Grant for small businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Announced in December, the one-time grant provides eligible businesses between $10,000 and $20,000, which can be used to help offset costs associated with having to restrict operational hours due to the provincial lockdown.

There are no restrictions on how the businesses use the funds. More detail on the funds can be found here.

COVID-19 continues to impact Sault's hospitality sector

A global coronavirus pandemic and closure of the Canada-U.S. border are continuing to wreak havoc on Sault Ste. Marie's hospitality sector, according to the latest room occupancy statistics released at this month's meeting of the Tourism Sault Ste. Marie board.

Read more on the impact from SooToday's David Helwig here.

Area addictions, mental health programs continue to operate amid lockdown

This week, the Sault Ste Marie and Area Drug Strategy Committee assured the community that despite the current provincial lockdown, area providers are continuing programs and services to assist those living with substance issues.

Read what programs and services are available in the region here.