Algoma Public Health (APH) is considering a number of measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the region, which could include placing further restrictions on gatherings and community activities.
APH reported Tuesday that five people in the public health region have died from COVID-19 over the past week, bringing the total number of deaths to 14 since last year. There are currently 282 active cases in the region, with 15 people hospitalized.
Dr. John Tuinema, associate medical officer of health for APH, informed SooToday via email Wednesday that the health unit is “actively reviewing options that are tailored to our local transmission patterns” and consulting with both local stakeholders and Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.
“We want to make sure that our schools and businesses can stay open safely as much as possible while ensuring we also protect our community,” said Tuinema. “Measures currently under consideration include reducing gathering limits, reducing high-risk school and community activities and ensuring businesses are taking proper precautions to protect their employees and the community.”
Tuinema says that ongoing activities where people engage in unmasked, close-contact interactions with one another - whether it’s at work or in social settings - are driving transmission rates in Algoma.
“We are seeing this in various workplaces, sport and fitness settings, and in people who are underhoused or homeless. Prior to our recent surge, a case would be detected and it might spread to a few people at most before hitting a wall of vaccinated individuals. We now have more sustained community spread as infections have found their way into groups where vaccination rates are low, which then spread further to the community,” he said.
APH says primary schools are also vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 because children ages five to 11 are not yet vaccinated.
More vaccine appointments and walk-in opportunities could be announced as early as next week through participating pharmacies and community health partners.
Although Canada will no longer require molecular tests for quick trips across the border come Nov. 30, the health unit agrees with the Public Health Agency of Canada that non-essential travel should be avoided.
“Vaccination rates and protective measures are not as strong across the border which puts individuals at risk. Returning travelers who become infected can also pose a risk to our communities here at home,” said Tuinema. “For those who must travel, we recommend taking precautions such as avoiding high-risk settings and masking.”
Nearly 400 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Algoma Public Health region so far during the month of November.