The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has reported 32 new cases of COVID-19 today along with one additional death linked to the virus from someone in the community. Of the new cases announced, one is related to an outbreak, 14 are from close contact with another confirmed case, nine are considered community spread, one is travel related outside of North America, and seven are under investigation. Our region now has 261 active cases, bringing our total to 12,931 cases, 47 confirmed cases in the hospital with five in the ICU, 12,291 cases listed as resolved, and 379 deaths. Across the province today there were 1,258 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number of new cases in a single day in almost two weeks. On Thursday there were 1,138 cases, and on Wednesday there were 1,054 cases.
Windsor-Essex has experienced a significant drop in COVID-19 cases in February. In January, we had over 4,300 cases and 170 deaths, while in February we have recorded 832 cases and 63 deaths to date. We still have a long way to go and COVID is still in our community. With the spread of new variants, it is critical that everyone continue to follow the advice of our health experts and follow all public health safety measures.
Health Canada has approved the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses and will receive up to 1.9 million doses by the end of June through COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing initiative. The AstraZeneca vaccine is the first viral vector-based COVID-19 vaccine authorized in Canada. The vaccine is authorized for use in people over 18 years of age, and is administered as a two-dose regimen and can be kept at refrigerated temperatures (from 2 degrees to 8 degrees Celsius) for at least six months. The vaccine’s efficacy is below the 94 per cent efficacy of the Moderna shot and the 95 per cent efficacy found with the Pfizer shots. Health Canada’s senior medical advisor, Supriya Sharma, said that the important features are that the vaccines prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and death. No one who received the shots died from COVID-19 and no one who contracted COVID-19 after receiving the shot was hospitalized.
The local health unit says approximately 7,000 eligible residents over 80 years old have signed up to get a COVID-19 vaccine since the pre-registration opened yesterday at 1pm. Health unit CEO Theresa Marentette said their epidemiologists are reviewing the information and preparing the selection process for the first clinic on Monday at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, and the Nature Fresh Farms Recreation Centre in Leamington on March 8. Members of the public who meet the eligibility requirements can pre-register through the health unit’s online portal here or by calling 519-251-4072.
Ontario’s science advisory table has released a report saying that by prioritizing COVID-19 vaccinations on both age and neighbourhood could prevent thousands of cases and reduce the number of deaths from the virus moving forward. The pandemic has disproportionately taken a toll on older adults and residents from lower income and racialized neighbourhoods, mainly in urban centres. The report suggests that targeting those residents first for vaccination could minimize deaths, hospitalizations, and illness across the province. You can read the full report here.
The local health unit has rescinded the COVID-19 outbreak at The Villages at St. Clair. Schlegal Villages, which is the parent company for The Villages at St. Clair long-term care home, has been named in a $110-million class action lawsuit for claims of gross negligence that led to a COVID-19 outbreak in December, resulting in 63 residents sadly passing away. You can read more here.
The provincial government announced new regulatory amendments to child care programs and services, citing helping parents return to work during the pandemic as the reason. These amendments include:
- Exempting certain authorized recreational providers from their three-hour operating limit.
- Enhancing health and safety protections in licenced child care settings, such as requirements to support contact tracing by local public health, new requirements for home-based child care and updates to the safe storage of potentially poisonous and hazardous items.
- Reducing regulatory/administrative burden on child care operators by removing redundant and unnecessary requirements for all providers. These include the removal of duplicate requirements related to the collection of children's emergency contact information, allowing records and documents required by the regulation to be kept in digital format, and no longer requiring licensees to seek ministry approval for children 44 months and up to bring their own meals from home.
These changes go into effect on March 8. You can read more here.
The Council of Ontario Universities which represents 21 universities in the province has said that the sector is facing a financial shortfall of about half a billion dollars this year as a result of COVID-19. They are asking for help from the province to make up the difference. Schools incurred significant expenses in the switch to remote learning, implementing enhanced health and safety measures, all while revenues from residences, facilities and other sources were significantly lower. You can read more here.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Red Cross will be responsible for administering COVID-19 tests on-site at border crossings starting next week. As of March 4, 11 high-volume ports of entry will be added to the list of land borders where testing will take place, including the Ambassador Bridge and the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel. Full details about requirements for COVID-19 testing at land borders can be found here.
Please stay diligent and continue following public health advice by staying at home, only going out for essential trips, wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing of 2 metres apart at all times when around others who live outside your household, and washing your hands frequently.