December 9, 2023

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Mask-wearing may not be mandated and most restrictions have been lifted — but the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is still advising of a local “increase in disease activity” when it comes to COVID-19.

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“I’m hopeful that we won’t see a greater increase in disease burden. But I think the facts are that we are seeing an increase in disease burden at this time,” said Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai during a media briefing on Thursday.

According to the health unit’s weekly epidemiological summary, there have been rising numbers over the past seven days in such data categories as active “high-risk” cases per 100,000 people, percent positivity, hospitalizations, outbreaks, and wastewater viral intensity.

Currently, the health unit is counting 362 active “high-risk” cases of COVID-19 in the region, with 36 of those cases hospitalized and two under intensive care.

“When we look at how our case rates compare to the rest of the province, we continue to be in the top five across all public health units in Ontario,” said Ramsey D’Souza, the WECHU’s manager of epidemiology. “At the same time, we are seeing increases in most health units in the province.”

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Interestingly, the number of local COVID cases in the ICU is the lowest it has been since August 2021.

There have been no new COVID-19 deaths since March 24. To date, 592 people in the region have died due to COVID-19.

The health unit is currently monitoring 16 active outbreak situations, including six in long-term care facilities or retirement homes, three in hospital units, and seven in the community.

Nesathurai reiterated that vaccination remains the most important thing people can do to protect themselves against severe impacts from COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccination is now mainly available from primary health-care providers.

Regional COVID-19 vaccination rates have improved only by fractions of a per cent in recent months. As of Thursday, 83.4 per cent of Windsor-Essex residents ages five and older have received at least two doses, and 50.9 per cent of residents ages 12 and older have received a third dose/booster.

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Meanwhile, with the coming closure of the Devonshire Mall mass vaccination site on Saturday, the health unit has announced that “catch-up” immunization clinics for youths will be held at locations throughout the region.

These clinics provide vaccination against Hepatitis B, HPV, and meningococcal disease — shots that students would have been required to receive through their schools, were it not for the disruption of in-person learning due to pandemic measures.

Students in Grades 7 to 12 (birth years from 2004 to 2009) who missed their shots are encouraged to book an appointment to attend a clinic and “catch up” on their doses.

The clinics will begin next week at the Nature Fresh Farms Recreation Centre in Leamington (249 Sherk St.) and the Atlas Tube Recreation Centre in Belle River (447 Renaud Line Rd.).

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