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Surges in Sioux Lookout, Emo drive new NWHU cases

Northwestern Health Unit reports 14 cases Tuesday, with agency warning of increased risk in Sioux Lookout and Emo.
COVID-19 2
The Northwestern Health Unit reported 14 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday.

SIOUX LOOKOUT, Ont. – The Northwestern Health Unit reported 14 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, with the areas of Emo and Sioux Lookout seeing worrying surges.

Six of the new cases were in the Emo health hub, and eight in the Sioux Lookout hub.

NWHU medical officer of health Dr. Kit Young Hoon warned of increased risk in both communities at a press conference Tuesday, urging residents to strictly adhere to the provincial stay-at-home order.

There were 56 active cases across the NWHU Tuesday, with 33 in the Sioux Lookout health hub, 8 each in the Kenora and Emo hubs, and 7 in the Dryden hub.

There was one district resident in hospital with the virus as of Tuesday.

Travel remains a spark for many COVID-19 surges in the NWHU, she noted.

“We’ve seen that many times in our catchment area, there’s a couple of cases that are travel-related, and then there’s spread in a social group or a few households that increases the cases suddenly.”

In Emo, an outbreak was declared Tuesday associated with an Easter Sunday service at the Calvary Baptist Church, with five cases so far linked to the gathering.

One case at the New Gold Rainy River mine was also connected to the service, Young Hoon said.

In the Sioux Lookout health hub, Young Hoon said “many communities” were impacted by cases, with 11 cases active in the municipality of Sioux Lookout itself, and 22 others in outlying areas of the health hub.

A case of more contagious and deadly B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K., had recently been confirmed there, Young Hoon said.

The health unit has recorded variants of concern (VOCs) in the Dryden, Kenora, Sioux Lookout, and Fort Frances areas, Young Hoon said.

However, the agency does not maintain information on the total number of variant cases.

“We haven’t been tracking that number [of VOC cases], primarily because it’s not a number the public might necessarily find useful,” she said.

Not all NWHU tests are being analyzed for variants, as they had been earlier in the year, she said.

In an outbreak, for example, she said the health unit is directed to assume the rest of the cases in the outbreak are VOCs, and the samples are not tested.

The NWHU’s testing positivity rate rose to 2.2 per cent for the week of April 4 to 11, with 2,041 tests completed.

The health unit reported 15,953 vaccine doses administered so far, with a total population of 82,231.