Chatham-Kent fighting COVID-19 variants as hospitalizations rise

COVID-19 test tube. (Photo from Pixabay)

With the number of new COVID-19 cases involving variants of concern climbing in Chatham-Kent lately, the local medical officer of health has instructed his public health staff, local doctors, and hospitals to start treating all positive cases as variants.

Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby said the number of variant cases in Chatham-Kent has climbed significantly to 57 cases over the past few weeks. On Thursday, Chatham-Kent Public Health reported four U.K. variant cases and 53 with a related mutation. Colby said the variants are more dangerous and easier to spread but also emphasized that all approved vaccines are effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

“The severe infections are entirely prevented by the vaccine,” said Colby. “The vaccines continue to work very well.”

At the hospital in Chatham, CEO Lori Marshall reported on Thursday there are seven patients trying to recover from COVID-19. Marshall said five are Chatham-Kent residents, two are in the ICU, and one is on a ventilator. She added a COVID-19 patient who was discharged on Thursday was in the hospital for more than 80 days recovering. Marshall cited the average hospital stay is seven days and added that although the hospital numbers are low right now, she is nervous and concerned about them growing and recent patients getting younger on average.

“We’re concerned with how long COVID-19 patients take to recover in the hospital and we’ve also seen a dramatic reduction in age group,” said Marshall. “Our average age of the seven patients right now is 63 and then there’s a range of 80s down to 50s and that is very different than during the first or second wave.”

Marshall implores everybody to pay attention to what’s going on provincially to keep the community safe.

The local public health unit also reported a third workplace COVID-19 outbreak on Thursday. The total number of local outbreaks is now five. The outbreaks at A.A. Wright Public School in Wallaceburg and Hudson Manor Retirement Home in Tilbury continue. However, the school board had zero cases listed for A.A. Wright on Thursday. Hudson Manor was up to three cases. The workplaces are not being identified because public health officials said they pose no risk to the public. There are also 12 new cases and eight resolved cases in Chatham-Kent for an increased total of 83 active cases.

Meantime, Dr. Colby is fine with a month-long province-wide lockdown and added it was completely predictable. He said the calls the municipality are getting are 5-1 in favour of, and calling for, stricter pandemic health and safety measures across Ontario. Colby said regional restrictions are less effective.

“Provincial lockdowns work well and the regional system, the colour-coded system, that culminates in a local lockdown, that system has not worked as well,” he said. “Whenever you have divisions between jurisdictions and large differences between the locked and the unlocked jurisdictions, it encourages transmigration of people, which is exactly the wrong message we’re trying to get across.”

The Lambton-Kent school boards have received confirmation from the province that schools will be open after the Easter long weekend and the Spring break in mid-April will go ahead as planned. The schools were getting ready for a province-wide lockdown but they will stay open.