By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Even though COVID-19 has taken a backseat in the news cycle, the virus continues to claim lives in Chatham-Kent.
Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Mario Kangeswaren told the Chatham-Kent Board of Health Sept. 21 there were nine deaths from the virus since the last meeting the board held in June.
The nine who passed away represent about “10 per cent of all the COVID-19 related deaths since the pandemic began,” Kangeswaren explained.
The MoH said the summer of 2022 saw more fluctuations in the virus compared to the previous year and that’s something “we should be mindful of.”
The fact the Ministry of Health has dissolved the Ontario Science Table, eliminated the five-day quarantine period, contract tracing, and made testing mostly a do-it-yourself project hasn’t stopped the spread of the disease.
It’s quite likely, Kangeswaren said, that the number of cases exceeds those that are recorded by the health unit.
“There’s more going on than what we’re seeing,” he added, noting 950 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Chatham-Kent since June.
When analyzing the data of cases per 100,000, Kangeswaren said Chatham-Kent’s rates are “trending a bit higher” than the weekly provincial average.
According to CK Public Health figures on Wednesday, we saw an average of eight new cases per day over the past week, and there were three new areas of outbreak. Those occurred in two congregate living/group home settings and at Blenheim Retirement Village.
They join Chatham Retirement Resort, Village on the Ridge, St. Andrew’s Residence, Maple City Retirement Residence, Riverview Gardens and Hudson Manor as the Chatham-Kent locations currently in COVID outbreak.
Kangeswaren likened Chatham-Kent’s current COVID-19 situation to a vehicle in traffic, noting Chatham-Kent is at the amber light and it’s not clear if the municipality is heading toward a red light, adding the outcome depends on the public.
It’s well documented that respiratory illnesses tend to peak in winter months, Kangeswaren said, so it remains to be seen how Chatham-Kent will fare.
And while Chatham-Kent’s COVID-19 vaccination rates are lower than the provincial average, Kangeswaren said vaccination has helped prevent serious illness, particularly in older adults where vaccination rates are high.
Since June, there have been 20 outbreaks of COVID-19 in the municipality involving six long-term care homes, seven retirement homes, four at the hospital and in three group homes.
However, Kangeswaren said being fully vaccinated helps prevent serious illness and death.
“There was not much COVID-19 ICU activity over the summer, so the vaccines are helping,” he said.
And there will be plenty of opportunity to get your shot or keep your booster up to date. In October, the health unit will start rolling out clinics across the municipality. A total of 234,906 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been dispensed, with 188,823 by the health unit and 46,083 through pharmacies.
The new bivalent COVID-19 shot will be part of the rollout.