According to Dr Paul Roumeliotis, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), a full twenty-five to thirty three percent of people in this health unit are failing in some manner to take adequate steps to social distance. This shocking fact was shared with Mayor and Council members at the Council meeting on January 19.
Dr Paul spoke to, and with, the Councillors for over an hour about the state of the EOHU, the numbers of people infected or recovering, the number of dead, outbreaks, vaccination, precautions, schools, and small businesses.
He noted that the numbers of people infected with Covid-19 in the EOHU are headed in the right direction. Currently, the numbers are as follows: total active cases 542; total cumulative cases 2,333; total currently hospitalised 21; currently in ICU 5; total resolved 1,741; total deceased 50. There are 15 ongoing outbreaks, with 47 outbreaks resolved. There have been 99,946 tests for Covid-19 conducted in the EOHU, and, so far, 1,715 vaccines administered.
He remarked that the number of children infected was concerning, and that the numbers show that they were most likely infected by socialising over the Christmas break. Again he stressed that, even if children do not experience severe cases of Covid-19, the possibility remains of them carrying the virus home to their parents, or grandparents, or some other vulnerable person in their immediate circle.
Schools in the EOHU jurisdiction will not be returning to in person learning until February, nor will schools in Ottawa. Conversely, schools within the Leeds Grenville Lanark Health Unit returned to in person learning on Monday of this week. In a situation where students live in one health unit and attend school in a different health unit, such as children from our township who attend schools in Kemptville, the children will be allowed to attend if their school is open.
Dr Paul was asked about masks. He stated that, for most people, double layer cloth masks are good. The tri-fold disposable masks are a bit better for some people, depending on the job they are doing, but not necessary. He reminded us that the masks are intended to protect other people. You do not wear a mask to protect yourself, rather you wear one to protect people around you. They are intended to stop the spread of the virus.
He stressed the importance of remaining vigilant. It has been a long road. He explained that many people are very good about distancing when at work, or carrying out tasks, but when they relax, they end up socialising informally. They become infected, and take it home to their families. He shared his frustration with big stores which are not adhering to restrictions as intended. For example, if a store is allowed a certain number of people inside it per square metre, that is based on the walkable space in the store, not the entire space. You have to take the shelf space out of the equation.
The Mayor, Council, and Dr Paul all agreed that smaller businesses should be allowed to open. Once a small business leaves a town, it does not come back. Dr Paul believes that restaurants should continue to be allowed to do take-out only, but that small shops be allowed to open. He, as well as Mayor and Council, have contacted Premier Ford and MPP Jim McDonell, asking that small businesses be allowed to open.
The virus is mutating successfully. Every virus has the possibility of mutation every time it reproduces. Viruses can reproduce from every 8 to 72 hours, depending on the virus. The variant we are most familiar with is the SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01, or B117. That is the one first identified in the UK in December, 2020, and by mid-January it had been seen in 50 other countries. It was detected in Ontario at this time. This variant, as well as others identified in other parts of the world, are more virulent than the initial virus. It spreads faster, and is easier to catch, meaning that more people will get sick, stressing the health care system. So far, the vaccines developed to date seem to be as effective against the variants. Even though we are tired of the pandemic, health professionals and epidemiologists are asking us to stay vigilant.