By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
While most signs point to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic here at home, news about the rise of cases in China indicates it’s not over.
The Asian country, which has a zero COVID-19 tolerance, has locked down millions of citizens in an attempt to contain the virus.
Chatham-Kent medical officer of health Dr. David Colby said during a March 16 board of health meeting that the culprit is a new variant.
Dubbed the “stealth” variant by the media, Colby said the new strain, dubbed omicron subvariant BA.2, is the “most transmissible” form of COVID-19 yet.
He expects it to become the predominant strain in Ontario, adding it could lead to an increase in local cases.
“I don’t like to predict the future,” Colby told the board, “as I would rather comment on the present. But it worries me. We are not done with this yet despite the fact everybody is tired of it and wants it to be done.”
With masking gone as of yesterday (March 21) except in federally regulated spaces including air and rail travel, Colby said the recent removal of mask mandates aren’t as important as other safety measures to prevent transmission.
Physical distancing and restricting the number of people at indoor gatherings are more important matters, he added.
While the overall numbers of cases has declined sharply overall, Colby said there has been a slight uptick locally, which he calls a “little bit concerning.
“We have to wait and see how this shakes out.”
Colby again reiterated the importance of getting vaccinated, noting that two shots don’t provide as much protection as three doses that have proven to be 90-per-effective in warding off severe complications.
In the past month, the health unit has dispensed 2,500 individual vaccines with the overall number of doses given in Chatham-Kent at 215,544.
The older generation has a very high rate of immunization, but that drops as residents get younger. In the five to 11 year age group, 42 per cent of children have been single vaxxed while 24 per cent are double vaxxed.
In the 12 to 17 year age group, 73.4 per cent have been vaccinated, while 70.3 per cent have been doubled vaxxed. Only eight per cent are triple vaccinated, Colby said, but he expects that number to rise, as there is a waiting period between shots.
In terms of new vaccines, Colby said there are two new options available.
Local residents who don’t want a to take an mRNA vaccine can now access the Novavax shot.
Medicago, a new Canadian-made vaccine that is plant derived, is not yet available in Chatham-Kent.
There have been 58 deaths in Chatham-Kent from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and a total of 7,089 confirmed cases.