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

Cases surged in Algoma this week compared to weeks previous
File photo

This week, new cases of COVID-19 in the province ranged from a low of 1,074 to a high of 1,747.

Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has advised that the province has entered the third wave of pandemic. This comes as more transmissible virus variants account for almost half of new cases. 

Here's the latest on new cases in the Algoma region this week

Algoma seen a slight surge in new confirmed cases this week.

The health unit reported a total of 19 cases of the virus since last Friday night.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers from Algoma Public Health, updated today at 12:50 p.m.:

  • 108,754 tested
  • 219 confirmed 
  • 21 (2)* active case
  • 1 currently hospitalized
  • 198 resolved
  • 4 deceased

* There are currently two 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, 64 per cent of ICU beds in Algoma Public Health's jurisdiction are currently occupied, and one COVID patient is in the ICU in the region.

The data also describes the community risk level for COVID-19 in our region as 'very low.'

Total confirmed cases by area of residence: 

  • 154 in Sault Ste. Marie and area
  • 46 in central and east Algoma
  • 16 in Elliot Lake and area
  • 3 in north Algoma

Public exposures reported this week in our region are as follows:

  • One case was linked to international travel on March 9 flight AI 1102 from Ahmedabad to New Delhi and flight AI from New Delhi to Toronto
  • The Northern Credit Union in Thessalon has been closed temporarily due to possible COVID-19 exposure on March 11 and 12
  • Algoma District School Board reported cases of COVID-19 linked to individuals associated with Central Algoma Secondary School (CASS) in Desbarats. Due to the positive cases, secondary school students learned from home this week. On Monday, an outbreak was declared at the school

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

  • 1,806 cumulative positives
  • 1,699 cumulative recovered
  • 28 deaths
  • 0 cases currently hospitalized

Algoma's neighbouring health district, Sudbury, currently has 261 active cases of COVID-19 after reporting 41 new cases on Thursday alone.

Here's the latest on COVID-19 vaccinations in the Algoma region this week

Vaccination of Algoma's population against COVID-19 is well underway.

As of Tuesday, residents of Algoma long-term care homes and First Nation elder care lodges have received first and second doses of the vaccine, and all staff and caregivers of Algoma long-term care and retirement homes have been offered immunization. Additionally, highest priority health care workers, adults 80+ and Indigenous adults 55+  have begun to receive vaccination.

Earlier this week, SooToday sought to clarify confusion surrounding COVID-19 vaccine booking locally. APH advised that anyone using the provincial portal to book an appointment, who has an Algoma postal code, will be directed to APH's website to complete their booking, and that Algoma residents should follow the instructions for booking for the specific clinic site they wish to attend.

As of Thursday, appointments for the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the GFL Memorial Gardens became available for specific groups for the next two weekends.

The groups include:

  • Adults 80 years and older (born in 1941 or earlier)
  • All Indigenous adults ages 55 and older and their immediate household (First Nations, Metis, Inuit) (born in 1966 or earlier)
  • Staff and essential caregivers in retirement homes
  • Community-based highest/very high priority healthcare workers (following the Ministry of Health’s guidance on Health Care Worker Prioritization
  • Adult recipients of chronic home care

Algoma Public Health is in Phase 1 of Ontario's 3 Phase Vaccine Distribution Program. As of today at 2:12 p.m.:

  • 13,254 total doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered (12,194 people)
  • 11,134 Algoma residents have received immunization (This number represents 11.5 per cent of eligible residents 16+, and 9.7 per cent of all residents)
  • 1,060 Algoma residents have been fully immunized with first and second doses (This number represents 1.1 per cent of eligible residents 16+, and 0.9 per cent of all residents)

Border won't be reopening anytime soon

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waved off suggestions that the Canada-U. S. border will reopen any time soon.

Trudeau says Canadians are looking forward to the day when incidental cross-border travel can "eventually" resume.

But it won't be anytime soon. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair tweeted on Thursday afternoon that the closure has been extended until at least April 21.

University, college presidents hopeful some students can return to the classroom soon

Local institutions are still looking at a mix of in person and remote learning for the 2021-22 school year, SooToday has learned.

Asima Vezina, President of Algoma U, stated Algoma’s 2021-22 academic year will be one of transition, aiming to safely bring students back to campus, while also ensuring the safety and success of those studying remotely from abroad in a COVID world.

Today, MPP Ross Romano announced $6.3 million in funding to help Algoma University and Sault College offset pandemic related costs, such as those linked to online learning, purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and enhanced cleaning procedures at the two postsecondary institutions.

Ontario sports minister says details of OHL hub cities, bubbles are being worked on

On Monday, Lisa MacLeod said she's more confident than ever about a shortened OHL season coming together. 

She said that the there are still a couple of sticking points that have to be sorted out before the puck can drop on Ontario's major junior hockey league, which hasn't seen any games played this season due to health and travel restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The minister said that the province has committed $2.35 million to the OHL’s scholarship program for the 17 Ontario-based teams in the league, which breaks down to roughly $138,000 per team.

Sault-area businessman says ultraviolet lamps can limit the spread of COVID-19

Al Errington, a Batchawana Bay man, says a new type of ultraviolet lamp (specifically, a far-UVC lamp) can kill viruses like COVID-19, and other bacteria in the air, before a person gets infected.

Magec Tech’s Magec Air 500 air sanitation lamp is not yet on the market for sale to businesses or individuals.

Convinced of the Magec Air 500’s effectiveness and its potential to limit the spread of COVID-19, Errington said he and his Magec Tech partners now need a manufacturer to step up and mass produce it for sale.

You can read more about the endeavour here. 

Algoma Hearing Centre owners see light at the end of the COVID tunnel

Patricia Van Hoof, Audiologist and her husband Dan Fisher have seen ups and downs during the COVID-19 pandemic period while attempting to provide hearing services across the North Shore.

With the rollout of the vaccines, they expect that their business they began 10 years ago will return to normal operations.

Learn more about their experience here.

Pandemic hits Sault North Archery Club hard

The Sault North Archery Club told SooToday that due to the COVID-19 crisis, the club's indoor range may be on the verge of closing down, and all fundraising avenues have been lost, as well as 60 per cent of membership.

Read more from the club here.

Science North staffer reflects on one year of COVID-19, pandemic pushback

Last week, we surpassed the one year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic impacting our lives. Another pandemic that has been influencing our lives is the "infodemic," a massive amount of information that has come about regarding vaccines, social distancing, and how the virus spreads.

A Science North Staffer reflects on pandemic misinformation and the resistance to public health guidelines here.

Monday marks one full year since school went virtual

It was just over a year ago, Thursday March 12, 2020, the province announced a drastic change was coming to the way kids, teens, and young adults would be learning.

Fast forward to today, and we now know those two weeks would later turn into until the end of May, and then the rest of the school year.

It seems strange now to think, adjusting for the change in school year, if this were 2020, that announcement would come down this Thursday, meaning this coming Monday would be the beginning of some major changes, and challenges, for students, teachers, and parents alike.

Here's what experts have to say about it.

Retired general Rick Hillier leaving role as Ontario vaccine task force head

Ford said Monday that retired general Rick Hillier will step away from the role when his contract expires on March 31 after turning down a request to stay on. 

Ford said Hillier's recent statement that every Ontarian should have their first dose of the vaccine by June 20 remains the government's target.

Province says rapid antigen testing to expand

The Ontario government has said it aims to provide easy access to COVID-19 testing in the workplace, saying that access will help ensure an entire workforce isn’t tied up in isolation, waiting for results.

Details were outlined in a news release Wednesday. This is regarded as a benefit for rural and remote communities including Northern Indigenous communities where there is limited access to health professionals required to administer testing.

Ontario's vaccine booking system now open to residents 80+

On Monday, Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine booking system went live for residents 80 and older. After it went online, the province reported thousands of residents across the province accessed the internet and phone lines to book their vaccinations. According to Premier Doug Ford, the booking system served 375 people per minute on the first day it launched. 

Ford also urged those who do not yet qualify for a shot to keep off the website so that it does not crash.

As of March 22, people 75 and older will be able to start booking vaccinations at participating pharmacies.

On Thursday, the premier said the province is on its way to administering 150,000 COVID-19 vaccines per day.

Trudeau offers reassurance on AstraZeneca safety as European countries suspend use

Germany joined others in Europe pausing their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over reports of blood clots in some recipients, even though European regulators say there's no evidence the shot is to blame.

Trudeau said Health Canada regulators are constantly analyzing all the available information about vaccines and have guaranteed those approved in Canada are safe for use. 

The European countries' decision to suspend AstraZeneca's vaccine comes as Canada's national vaccine expert panel advised that the vaccine is both safe and effective for seniors. This decision reverses a recommendation made by the body on March 1, when the panel said AstraZeneca hadn't included enough people over the age of 65 in its clinical trials.

To date in Canada, one stroke has been reported in an individual following vaccination with the version of AstraZeneca being distributed here.

As vaccines continue to rollout across the country, the White House has confirmed on Thursday that Canada has asked the U.S. for help in procuring COVID-19 vaccine doses. But press secretary Jen Psaki would only say they are considering the request, not whether the Biden administration has agreed to it.

On Friday, Trudeau announced that the feds finalized an agreement for 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca from the U.S.

Conversation surrounding vaccine passports ongoing

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the world is trying to figure out how to make international travel work in the post-pandemic age.

She said proof of vaccination may be required for Canadian travelers looking to visit other countries, though she isn't sure if Canada will require the same proof to enter the country.

Meanwhile, the prime minister has expressed the need for caution over the use of 'vaccine passports,' suggesting they could unfairly impact some people if used to decide who can go to a concert or dine at a restaurant.

While Trudeau acknowledged that proof of a COVID-19 inoculation would not be out of place for travellers who already face similar requirements for other vaccines when embarking on international jaunts, he said such a scheme for everyday activities in Canada raises "questions of equity."

Long-term care home staffing and funding update

With the third wave upon us, the Ontario Long-Term Care Association says an already shallow pool of talent of PSWs are being further drained as some workers get scooped up by larger companies. This furthers concerns about staffing shortages in long-term care and retirement homes.

The province announced this week it will be spending $30-million to help the retirement home sector cover unexpected COVID-19 related costs, such as hiring, training and testing additional staff, sanitizing residences and buying supplies to help control the spread of the virus.

This is in addition to the government's plan to spend $933 million to create more beds in long-term care and upgrade facilities in the sector that has been devastated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) is pushing for a formal inquiry into what it says is the 'systemic discrimination based on age against the elderly in the provision of hospital and long-term are in Ontario,' which it says became tragically acute during the COVID-19 pandemic.