by Amber Laberge, Communications Officer
Director of Education, John Cameron, welcomed Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medial Officer of Health with the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, and Dr. Paula Stewart, Medical Officer of Health with the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, to present information to the Board regarding local COVID 19 case data. Both Medical Officers of Health have been instrumental in guiding the Board through the creation of the re entry plan, as well as in providing regular consultation.
Dr. Paula Steward began the presentation with information on local case data in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Counties.
“In our region we had a bit of a rocky Christmas season, as we had people who decided that it would be okay to have family gatherings, which resulted in a little spike after Christmas and the New Year,” noted Dr. Stewart. “We currently have about 20 or so active cases, and we are not getting more than two or three a day, and sometimes none. This is very important with regard to reopening schools. Interestingly, data from public health Ontario shows that,when you compare children and adolescents younger than 20 with older adults, this age group didn’t have as much infection as the older adults. Additionally, it is important to note that most children were exposed through family members. It was very unusual for children to become sick with COVID 19 in schools, and in our area we only had about two cases like this.”
Dr. Stewart also noted that fever and cough were the most common clinical symptoms, and that most children experienced mild to moderate disease, with approximately 10 19% being asymptomatic.
“The big news of course, is the vaccine,” continued Dr. Stewart. “The research shows that with two doses the vaccine is 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID 19 symptoms. The critical message about the vaccine is that the research has not yet shown whether people who get the vaccine are also prevented from transmitting the virus. The question is, does the virus still replicate in the back of the nose and throat, which would allow you to spread it even though you do not have any symptoms.”
Dr. Stewart noted that because this information is still unavailable, people who are immunized must still follow the precautionary measures of wearing a mask, handwashing, and staying home if they are ill.
Dr. Paul Roumeliotis also provided case data for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region, which he noted is quite different from what is taking place in Ottawa and in the Lanark, Leeds and Grenville region.
“In the EOHU region, we are seeing a completely different picture than what is happening in Dr. Stewart’s region. We have now reached more than 2,200 total cases in our area, with active cases currently at 578, and multiple outbreaks in long term care,” began Dr. Roumeliotis. “Our numbers peaked a few weeks after Christmas, and now we are seeing a downward trend which is promising, but we are still at very high levels.”
Dr. Roumeliotis discussed where the EOHU region currently sits with regard to provincial averages.
“When we look at the seven day rolling average, the EOHU currently has approximately 135 cases per 100,000.”
This average means that the EOHU is one of the areas in the province that is experiencing high numbers of COVID 19 cases, similar to areas such has Hamilton (130 cases per 100k), London (137 cases per 100k), and Durham (125 cases per 100k).
“One of my concerns is that since we are seeing such a high rate of positivity and high rates of infection within our community, along with the numbers we are seeing in our long term care facilities, reopening schools may not be feasible at this time.”