3 more deaths, but COVID numbers improving

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Three more Chatham-Kent residents have died due to COVID between May 11 and 18, but public health officials said all signs are trending in the right direction.

In her presentation to the Chatham-Kent board of health May 18, Laura Zettler, epidemiologist and program manager with CK Public Health, said the number of hospitalized cases, volume of patients in Ontario ICUs, daily number of new cases and even wastewater testing all show signs of having flattened out or being in decline.

“We just recently changed our reporting frequency. It had been three times a week, but we changed it to report weekly. This is a sustainable way to move forward and get a sense of the trends,” she said. “We’ve seen stable volumes the last few weeks.”

The average daily number of new cases has been consistent at about 21. Between May 11 and 18, there were about 150 new cases, similar to recent weeks, Zettler said.

With the three deaths, Chatham-Kent’s total since the beginning of the pandemic more than two years ago sits at 75.

There were eight new areas of outbreak reported. Included in there are two units of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, three group homes, two congregate living settings and Riverview Gardens. Still active are outbreaks at Copper Terrace and Blenheim Community Village, and two group homes.

Zettler said most outbreaks contain only small numbers of active cases.

Of those in hospital with COVID, and there are more than 20 people with the virus there, just three are there primarily due to COVID-19, and none are in the ICU.

In terms of vaccinations, in excess of 84 per cent of the eligible population has received at least one dose; with 81 per cent having received two doses, and about 50 per cent having been jabbed three times. Just eight per cent, mostly folks aged 60 and up, have had four doses of the vaccine.

CK Public Health officials finally believe they are at a point where they can begin to think about life after the pandemic. Teresa Bendo, director of Public Health, said after about 25 months of responding to the pandemic, work is being done to prepare to move Public Health back to its non-pandemic protocols in aiding in improving the overall wellbeing of the people of Chatham-Kent.

“It’s our duty to start shifting our focus a little more to recovery from the pandemic,” she told the board.

This has been attempted before, however. Bendo said such work began in August of last year and again in December, but each time, the pandemic changed gears and forced a refocus on dealing with COVID-19 as the primary concern for Public Health.

Bendo said the return to regular programming won’t occur overnight.

“We expect this recovery to take multiple years as we move forward,” she said. “We will focus on things we can realistically implement.”

The recovery will take place with three components, including continuing contact tracing and vaccinations for COVID, restoring Public Health programs, re-examining staff wellness and organizational effectiveness.

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