By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Lori Marshall has an earnest plea for the community: “Please get vaccinated.”
The chief executive officer of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance made the appeal last week after announcing the hospital’s ICU had hit 100 per cent capacity.
And on Monday, five people were listed in hospital with COVID-19 on ventilators in the Intensive Care Unit. An additional 10 people were in hospital with the virus.
Marshall said she is “disheartened and quite worried” about the rising number of COVID-19 cases as they could lead to another cut in services, similar to what occurred earlier in the pandemic.
The health-care leader is asking unvaccinated residents to consider getting the vaccine.
“At this point in time it is the best thing we can do to protect ourselves and others,” Marshall noted, recognizing that while some cannot be vaccinated, getting the shot is “still the best thing we can do to protect and care for one another.”
Marshall said as of Friday, the COVID-19 patients ranged in age from 20 to 93 years with the average age set at 61.
As of Monday, 11 of the 15 patients were unvaccinated and four were fully vaccinated.
So far the alliance hasn’t had to cancel any scheduled treatments but that will change if numbers continue to climb.
Marshall said the hospital is managing on a “day to day” basis, noting the unremitting stress of COVID-19 is taking its toll on employees.
Many employees are discouraged by having to pour their efforts into treating a preventable illness.
“We’ve all heard this tune or saw this show before,” Marshall explained at a recent media scrum. “When we see hospitals become overwhelmed, the only outlet we have is to reduce our scheduled care.”
Ontario’s hospital and ICU capacity is the main benchmark used by the Ministry of Health to gauge the severity of the pandemic. More restrictive measures come into play when the health-care system is in danger of being overwhelmed.
In the meantime, cases are cropping up elsewhere. Riverview Gardens long-term care home in Chatham had to isolated one wing in the building after two staff members tested positive. The cases were unrelated.
As of Monday morning, an outbreak at Chatham’s Praise Fellowship Church had 24 confirmed cases and the municipality’s public and Catholic boards had 17 positive student cases in Chatham-Kent.
Dresden Area Central School was in outbreak, with two reported cases of the 17 students between the two boards.
Also on Monday, CK Public Health reported 45 new cases since Friday, against 32 deemed resolved. As a result, our number of active cases rose by 13, up more than 10 per cent, to 126.
Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby said he is in complete agreement with Marshall, adding the uptick in cases is creating anxiety.
However, he adds people can always change their minds and opt for the shot.
“It’s not too late to get vaccinated,” Colby stressed, again noting it’s the best way to guard against the virus.
“When the ICUs are full, it’s a big, big problem,” Colby said.
And while there have been more than 300 cases of COVID-19 in Ontario schools since the start of the school year, there’s no indication from the province that students will be forced back to online learning.
Lambton Kent District School Board education director John Howitt said that there was no mention of closing schools during recent high-level meetings with the Ministry of Education.
Howitt said there’s been no spread within the schools and officials hope to keep it that way by following protocols and ensuring students adhere to strict pre-screening measures.
Colby said none of the school cases are random and that have been contact traced to the source.