New MOH addresses COVID-19, next steps for region’s public health

New CK Medical Officer of Health. Dr. Mario Kangeswaren. (Submitted photo)

Chatham-Kent’s new medical officer of health says the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths are much higher this summer than in 2021.

Dr. Mario Kangeswaren told the board of health on Wednesday that Chatham-Kent has had 101 new cases over the last seven days, as well as 950 cases since the last meeting in June.

He said it represents 9.75 per cent of all cases since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Last summer, Chatham-Kent experienced a bit of a lull over the same time period, although cases did rise back up in August. Kangeswaren said the case numbers from this summer only reflect positive results, which are not as available as they were last year.

“Long story short, we’re understanding that there are more cases happening over this summer compared to last summer,” said Kangeswaren. “Compared to Ontario’s case rate per 100,000 people, Chatham-Kent showed more ups and downs this summer.”

Kangeswaren added that the smaller population size in Chatham-Kent can lead to more fluctuations in the numbers.

While there were no new COVID-19 deaths in Chatham-Kent over the last week, there were nine deaths recorded since the last meeting. Kangeswaren said this represents about 10 per cent of all local COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

“This summer we have had more deaths,” said Kangeswaren. “That is something we should be mindful of.”

Kangeswaren, who stepped into the role in August, also took part in a virtual media scrum Wednesday to talk about his vision and what he think’s are the next steps for the area’s public health.

He said he believes the community partners already involved with the public health agency are and remain an asset.

“We have a really hard-working and dedicated team,” said Kangeswarn. “There were staff that were working extra hours, time they could have spent watching their children grow up. This is an optimistic and hardworking group.”

Dr. Kangeswaren comes with a diverse educational background, including a Masters of Science in Family Medicine from McGill University and a Masters of Public Health from the University of Waterloo. He also has experience supporting Indigenous communities.

According to General Manager of Community Human Services April Rietdyk, Kangeswaren is technically an acting medical officer of health until he is appointed the permanent role by the province.

“All medical officers of health are hired into an acting role,” she said. “That’s why we still see some acting MOHs in some of our neighbouring communities as well.”