The medical officer of health for the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit has been keeping an eye on the developing COVID-19 situation in the Greater Sudbury area, just over an hour's drive from the Health Unit's Oak Street West offices in North Bay.
"The increase in individuals testing positive for COVID-19 in Public Health Sudbury & District’s region is concerning," says Dr. Jim Chirico.
Thursday, Dr. Penny Sutcliffe acknowledged Greater Sudbury as "a COVID-19 hotspot," and under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, Sutcliffe, the medical officer of health for PHSD, issued a class order outlining mandatory self-isolation for individuals who fall into various stages of possible COVID-19 infection.
Thursday, PHSD reported 22 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death, the 32nd in Greater Sudbury since the onset of the pandemic. With resolved cases, the active case count is 211, and this week, Greater Sudbury and surrounding areas have reported some of the highest COVID-19 case counts in Ontario.
Asked if locals should avoid making the trip to Greater Sudbury until the public health crisis has run its course, Chirico observes, "There currently are no travel restrictions in place, however, I do recommend that individuals consider the risk before they travel. It is important that individuals consider if a shopping or other non-essential trip is worth the potential risk of being exposed to COVID-19."
Sutcliffe noted the number of cases in the PHSD catchment area without any identifiable source of exposure is particularly worrying.
"While the province of Ontario is seeing improvements in COVID-19 case counts, trends in Greater Sudbury are going in the opposite direction," Sutcliffe stated, Thursday. "We are currently a COVID-19 hotspot, with a case rate that is among the highest in the province. These trends signal a call to immediate action.
"Now is the time for each of us to assess our individual actions and decisions and ramp up COVID-19 precautions — layer on the protective measures such as vaccination, masking, distancing, working from home, and importantly, staying home when even mildly unwell. We have the power in our hands to turn this around."
Chirico added, "For those who do choose to travel I ask that you continue to wear a face covering when required, practice physical distancing, wash or sanitize your hands often and if you feel unwell stay home and get tested for COVID-19. These measures are particularly important if you or people around you are not fully vaccinated."
There were 10 active outbreaks in Sudbury and Districts in the past week, including four in workplaces, two in schools, and one each in a long-term care home, a correctional facility, a public community setting and one private social gathering. Three outbreaks were declared over in the past seven days: two in workplaces and one in a private social gathering, according to PHSD.
One school, École Ste-Marie in Azilda, was closed this week due to an outbreak and, Friday, the school bus consortium cancelled several runs due to COVID-19 exposures.
In the past week, PHSD reported 164 new cases and 52 cases were resolved. To date, 115 of the 164 cases had a mutation profile that is commonly associated with a COVID-19 variant of concern (VOC). Ten COVID-19 outbreaks were active this week,
The incidence rate in the past seven days was 82.5 new cases per 100 000 population, compared to 41.7 cases per 100 000 in the previous seven days. The percent positivity was 3.3 per cent for the period of October 20 to October 26, compared to 0.9 per cent for the previous seven days.
Of the 164 new cases in the PHSD service area in the past week, 63 were a close contact with a confirmed case and 61 were associated with an outbreak. Four cases were travel-related, while 30 had no known epidemiological link. Six cases remained under investigation.
Of the 164 cases reported this week, 158 reside in Greater Sudbury while two reside in Sudbury North, one in Sudbury East, two in Sudbury West and one in Manitoulin district.
In Greater Sudbury, "No single setting or sector is driving the current increase, advised Sutcliffe. "The number of cases without any known source of exposure has increased over the last few months, which indicates a worrying trend of community spread of the virus."