‘The virus is still present around us’

Sudbury’s health unit issued a reminder on Thursday that it’s important to continue protecting vulnerable members of the community as the provincial government lifts COVID-19 restrictions.

“Starting next week, it is expected that the government of Ontario will lift the requirement to show proof of vaccination for all remaining settings currently under provincial regulations,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe in the health unit’s weekly update.

“This will be in addition to further easing other public health measures. While this is welcome news, it may be concerning for some, recognizing the virus is still present around us.”

The Ontario government has announced the easing of restrictions is possible due to decreasing case counts and high vaccination rates.

“Please be reminded that it remains important to protect those in our community who are particularly vulnerable to severe disease, such as seniors and those with underlying medical conditions,” said Sutcliffe.

“Although COVID-19 will continue to circulate, we now have greater knowledge and tools to help keep us safe. The sacrifices and protective measures we have used have helped save lives.”

Public Health Sudbury and Districts said that as people turn their attention towards achieving some sense of normalcy, they cannot let their guard down entirely.

“While we are moving head to restore previously paused public health programs and services, Public Health remains ready to respond to any COVID-19 surge or concerns that may arise,” said Sutcliffe.

“As we move ahead, please continue to take necessary precautions, such as wearing a mask, staying home when sick, and getting vaccinated, to stay healthy.”

Over the last seven days, Public Health reported 521 new cases in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts. Additionally, 472 known cases were resolved.

Although route screening for variants of concern was discontinued by the province, it’s likely the large majority of the cases reported this week are the Omicron variant, said the update.

“Please note that as of December 31, 2021, eligibility for publicly funded PCR testing is limited to people who are associated with highest risk settings or who are at high risk of severe disease if they become infected,” said the update.

“Counts of new and active cases, therefore, underestimate the true number of people with COVID-19 in Sudbury and districts.”

Positive rapid antigen tests associated with the highest risk setting outbreaks are included in case counts.

Of the 521 cases reported this week, 428 were in Greater Sudbury and 39 were in the Manitoulin district. There were also five cases reported in Sudbury north, 36 in Sudbury west, and 13 in Sudbury east.

There were 16 active COVID-19 outbreaks active this week, including six in congregate living settings, seven in long-term care homes, and one each in a hospital, retirement home, and correctional facility.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a total of 11,075 known cases locally, of which 10,615 are resolved,” said the health unit.

“Sadly, COVID has now caused or contributed to the deaths of 106 people in our service area.”

Provincial data has indicated that the risk of an individual who is unvaccinated or partially vaccinated being admitted to hospital due to COVID-19 was 1.8 times higher than someone with two doses.

Individuals who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated were 2.3 times more likely to end up hospitalized than someone with three doses.

The above data was gathered from Jan. 6 to Feb. 4.

“On February 22, there were 58 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in local hospitals, 17 of which had been admitted due to COVID. Four of these patients were in the intensive care unit (ICU), six of which were on a ventilator,” said the health unit.

“Seven days prior, there were 46 patients in local hospitals with confirmed COVID-19, 24 of which had been admitted due to COVID, with six in the ICU and three on a ventilator.”

The health unit has administered 440,465 doses of COVID-19 vaccines among residents in Sudbury and districts.

“Thus far, 174,267 people have received their first dose of vaccine and 165,692 people have been fully vaccinated (with two doses),” said the update.

“A total of 98,710 people has received a third dose, including 58 per cent of residents aged 18 and over.”

Additionally, 1,796 people have received a fourth dose. A total of 1,705 vaccine doses were administered over the last seven days.

Overall, 84.9 per cent of the total Sudbury and districts population has received a first dose, and 80.7 per cent are fully vaccinated.

“This means that there are over 39,000 residents who are not currently fully immunized,” said the update.

The health unit’s mobile vaccination clinic will return to service on March 1 to offer COVID-19 vaccination to individuals across its service area.

For more information, visit www.phsd.ca/COVID-19.

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