While COVID-19 trends improve province-wide, the Northwestern Health Unit remains mired in a wave of Omicron-driven cases that contributed to three new deaths this week.
The trend has led the region’s medical officer of health to advise residents to stick with many public health precautions, even as they’re removed by the provincial government.
The virus has now been deemed a contributing or underlying cause in the deaths of 20 NWHU residents since the pandemic began.
The number of active COVID-19 cases confirmed by the health unit, meanwhile, jumped by 101 since the last report on Wednesday, reaching 409 on Friday.
Of those, 190 were in the Sioux Lookout area and 128 in the Fort Frances area, with all other areas reporting fewer than 40 cases each.
The health unit’s seven-day testing positivity rate also rose to 32.7 per cent on , from 29.1 per cent on Wednesday, meaning nearly one in three PCR tests returned positive results.
That compares to a rate of 2.8 per cent in the NWHU throughout the pandemic, underscoring the limited availability of testing as well as the rise in cases.
Across the province, hospitalization and ICU numbers are declining along with case counts.
“I cannot stress enough that we are not in the same situation,” said NWHU medical officer of health Dr. Kit Young Hoon at a press conference Tuesday.
The NWHU had the highest case rate per 100,000 residents in Ontario, about five times the provincial average, and was seeing increases in the trending data, she indicated.
Young Hoon attributed the divergence between provincial and local trends to the later arrival of the Omicron wave in the Northwest, saying the fact that the wave didn’t hit as hard here likely also made it more protracted.
The health unit has not updated its reporting on the number of residents in hospital with COVID-19 since Feb. 19, when there were six people in hospital with the virus (five due to the virus, and one testing positive incidentally).
Given high rates of COVID-19, Young Hoon said she “strongly recommend[s]” residents avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors, and that indoor settings continue restricting capacity to the number of people who can safely distance in the space.
Most indoor spaces no longer face capacity limits as the province has eased public health measures, and most gatherings and events can legally have up to 50 people indoors.