The region's health unit has confirmed an increase in COVID transmission, hospitalizations, deaths, active outbreaks, and wastewater signals indicate the seventh wave of the pandemic is here.
After a steady decline in COVID-19 cases this spring, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported a 46 per cent jump to 330 new confirmed cases for the week of July 3, compared to 225 new cases during the week of June 26. Case counts are underestimated as testing is limited.
The latest wave hitting Ontario and the local region is driven by the BA.5 subvariant of the Omicron strain of COVID-19.
In a news release, the region's medical officer of health, Dr. Charles Gardner, said the subvariant is "highly transmissible" and spreading in the community.
"Although BA.5 has similar severity to previous Omicron subvariants, we are seeing cases where people who have been infected with COVID-19 in the past few months are being reinfected with this new variant," said Gardner in the release. "This means that even if you have recently had COVID, it is important to be fully up to date on all recommended vaccines for the best protection against getting infected again and severe infection."
The health unit is recommending precautions, especially for those most vulnerable to severe outcomes from COVID-19, such as choosing outdoor activities over indoor, wearing a mask in an indoor public setting, limiting close contacts, and physical distancing from those not in your household.
In this week's Simcoe-Muskoka COVID update, posted today (July 12) the health unit has confirmed four more deaths and nine hospitalizations since the July 5 update.
The most recent deaths include two men over 79 years old from Simcoe County (both cases were outbreak-related), a Simcoe County man between 65 and 79 years old, and a Simcoe County man between 45 and 64 years old. The four men died between June 26 and July 11.
There are currently 21 area residents hospitalized because of COVID-19.
There are 20 active COVID-19 outbreaks involving nine institutional settings (long-term care and nursing homes), six group homes, four recreational camps, and one child care facility.
An outbreak declared at Collingwood Nursing home on June 27 was declared over by July 7.
There are active COVID-19 outbreaks at Victoria Village Manor and Amica Little Lake retirement home in Barrie, at Trillium Manor in Orillia, at Kingsmere Retirement Living and Riverwood Senior Living in Alliston, at Georgian Manor in Penetanguishene, and at Holland Gardens Retirement Residence in Bradford.
A list of outbreaks is included on the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit website here.
The Collingwood General and Marine Hospital reported two inpatients are currently positive for COVID-19.
According to the health unit, the rate of hospitalization for COVID-19 among the unvaccinated population (aged 12 and older) is three times higher than it is for the vaccinated population, and five times higher for ICU admissions. Death rates among the unvaccinated are three times higher than they are for vaccinated populations.
Since the start of the pandemic, the local health unit has confirmed 467,002 cases of COVID-19, with 46,060 of those cases recovered and 512 cases ending in death.
Of the deaths reported by the health unit since March 2020, 437 were COVID-19-related, 65 deaths were not related to COVID-19 but the person tested positive, and for 10 of them, the cause of death is unknown or pending.
The health unit reported 30 COVID deaths in April, 22 deaths in May, and 12 deaths in June. Of the last 15 deaths, all but two were seniors aged 75 or older.
To date, 83 per cent of the population aged five years old and up are fully vaccinated with two or more doses, and 18 per cent of the region’s total population (including children) is unvaccinated.
According to monitoring of the region’s hospitals by the health unit, 61 per cent of the region’s ICU beds are full and 23 per cent of the ventilator beds are occupied. Acute care occupancy is highest with 86 per cent of the beds in the region currently full.
Wastewater monitoring in Collingwood, Orillia, Penetanguishene, and Midland shows COVID-19 virus DNA as present in each of the communities, but there's been no increase or decrease noted in the last week. There is, however, an increase noted in samples collected from Barrie.
Anyone who has not yet received their COVID-19 vaccination or booster doses is encouraged to do so as soon as they are eligible. Information about eligibility and clinic locations is available at smdhu.org/GetVaccinated.