THUNDER BAY - The number of COVID-19 cases are increasing across the province fueled in large part by variants of concern and the local medical officer of health believes more variant cases will arise in the district in the coming weeks.
“I think there is a real concern that over the next couple of weeks or by the end of April we will see more VOCs and our case numbers will go up because of those VOCs,” said Dr. Janet DeMille, medical officer of health with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.
On Wednesday, the health unit reported 34 new cases of COVID-19, which brought the number of active cases to 216, the first increase in the past two weeks.
According to DeMille, the number of daily cases tends to fluctuate and it is important to monitor the seven-day average, which currently sits at 108 new daily cases.
“We are continuing to be around that particular area for the last several days. We’ve seen a substantial drop in the last couple of weeks. We are hovering around 110 for a seven-day average, so still quite high, but hoping to see that continue to drop over the next week,” DeMille said.
“It’s hard to define sometimes what the wave is but we are seeing the drop right now is related to the second wave. I hope that continues to drop. But on the horizon, there is very much a risk of a third wave.”
There are four confirmed cases involving a variant of concern in the district and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit will start including variant cases in its daily reporting.
“We are seeing the variants of concern increasing in the province, driving higher case numbers,” DeMille said. “We do want to provide information to the public on where we are on that. With only four identified at this time, we are doing well. But I do expect that number will go up in the coming weeks if not sooner.”
All positive cases of COVID-19 are screened for variants of concern, though it does take several days to get variant cases confirmed, so there are delays in notifications.
The number of variants of concern is increasing in other parts of the province. As of Wednesday, there are 1,898 cases of the U.K. variant in Ontario and 162 other variant cases.
Variants are considered more transmissible and can lead to more severe illness. In Ontario, there are 421 patients in intensive care units, the highest number of ICU admissions since the start of the pandemic.
At the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre there are 22 patients admitted with COVID-19 and seven in the ICU.
Reducing the spread of COVID-19 variants relies on public health measures already in place, such as reducing interactions with others, no social gatherings, wearing a mask, and practicing physical distancing.
DeMille is also strongly urging the public to avoid gatherings this long weekend and avoid all non-essential travel.
“It does put us and people at risk of spreading the virus and puts us as a broader community at risk,” she said. “That could happen this coming long-weekend if people don’t abide by those rules.”