Open letter to community warns of fourth wave

COVID-19 test tube. (Photo from Pixabay)

Health officials in Windsor-Essex have penned an open letter warning of the fourth wave of COVID-19, and it’s addressed to you.

The letter to the community comes as vaccination rates are levelling off and calls on everyone who hasn’t gotten a shot yet to do so.

While 286,689 people in Windsor-Essex are now fully vaccinated, there are still 39,018 who still need to get their second, and thousands more who haven’t been vaccinated at all.

“This is a critical time in our fight against COVID-19,” reads the letter. “If we as a community grow complacent, the risk of further health, social well-being, and economic impacts could be grave.”

Medical Officer of Health in Windsor-Essex, Doctor Wajid Ahmed, has pleaded with parents over the past couple of weeks to get their children, aged 12 to 17, fully vaccinated before school starts. On Tuesday, the province’s top doctor, Doctor Kieran Moore, warned those who have had not had both shots could face stricter restrictions if there is an outbreak in their school.

It also points to experiences around the globe where low vaccination rates and the spread of variants have led to rising hospitalizations and deaths. It calls that a warning sign cases could increase locally, leading to another round of public health restrictions this fall and winter.

“I think there is a bit of a race against time,” said Erie Shores Healthcare’s Chief of Professional Staff Doctor Ross Moncur. “If we get enough people vaccinated against the current strains, then I think we can really nip this in the bud and prevent the virus from spreading and mutating [more].”

He’s having many conversations with patients in his practice that are hesitant to get the shot and admits others will likely never get it. However, but he’s still optimistic.

“I don’t think that that number is greater than ten per cent of our population. I do think 90 per cent is achievable,” Moncur said.

Both Ahmed and Moncur signed the letter. The other three are the President of the Essex County Medical Society, Doctor Jessica Summerfield, Windsor Regional Hospital Chief of Staff Doctor Wassim Saad, and Doctor Andrea Steen, the Chief of Staff at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare.

“COVID-19 vaccines have never been more available,” continues the letter. “Residents can get vaccinated at local pharmacies, through their healthcare provider, at a pop-up clinic, or at a mass vaccination site.”

Moncur confessed he is tired of public health restrictions too, but insisted there is only one way to end the pandemic.

“I drive around, and I see the ‘No More Lockdowns’ signs on lawns across the community. My reaction to that is, I completely agree, but the subheading to that should be, so get vaccinated,” said Moncur. “We can’t just will this pandemic to go away. We have to do something about it, and the vaccination is the best thing we can do.”

On Wednesday, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported five new cases.  However, because of an ongoing data cleanup, the total caseload only rose by two to 16,874.

Of the five new infections, three people were infected during close contact with a previously confirmed case, one is related to travel, and another caught the virus in the community.

There are 23 active cases in the region, of which five involve a variant of concern.