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Klassen: Community transmission of COVID-19 continues to be high in Huron-Perth

HURON-PERTH – Although COVID-19 vaccines are starting to be distributed to long-term care residents in Huron and Perth counties, Dr. Miriam Klassen says that community transmission of the virus continues to be high in the region.

“Cases are rising in Huron-Perth, we are seeing multiple outbreaks and the province has raised serious concerns over the capacity of the province’s hospital system,” said Klassen, medical officer of health for Huron and Perth.

“While vaccinations have begun for long-term care residents in Huron-Perth, we are still at a critical point in the pandemic. We need to do everything we can now to stop virus transmission.”

Over 500 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the region since December, with 127 cases being reported in the first two weeks of January alone.

There were 12 new confirmed cases on Jan. 13, bringing the cumulative total to 922 since the beginning of the pandemic. There are currently 100 active cases in Huron-Perth, including 10 active outbreaks at long-term care and retirement homes. There are six people in hospital due to the virus, and 25 deaths have been related to COVID-19.

“This pandemic has been an incredibly difficult time for so many,” said Klassen.

“The arrival of vaccines marks a turning point, but it will take time.  For now, many in our community are still vulnerable, and we must all do as much as we can to reduce virus spread in Huron-Perth.”

Vaccinations for long-term care residents

Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) says limited amounts of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are now being distributed to long-term care residents in the region. HPPH, in partnership with the Huron Perth Mass Vaccination Advisory Committee (HPMVAC), is guiding the vaccination program in the region.

While no specific numbers have been released by HPPH, staff members from long-term care and retirement homes have been receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine since late December.

Questions about vaccine timelines

HPPH said in a press release on Thursday that they have received “much interest” from the community on when the COVID-19 vaccine will be available for the general public and different groups.

The province announced on Jan. 13 the details of the second phase of their vaccination distribution plan, which aims to have 8.5 million people vaccinated by the end of July.

Ontario’s vaccination distribution plan is a three-phase plan. The first phase, currently underway, focuses on vulnerable populations that are at greatest risk of COVID-19 and severe illness, and those who care for them.

Locally, HPMVAC is creating a Huron Perth sequencing model as well as an administration and distribution plan based on the province’s distribution plan and ethical framework.

Currently the focus is on long-term care homes and then retirement homes. Additional groups will be identified in the sequencing model as vaccines become available those groups will be contacted. For the general public, this is not likely for a few months.

HPPH asks the public to be patient and await further information – there is no vaccination waiting list set up for the general public.

“While the arrival of vaccines is a great development, vaccinations will take time and we are in a critical situation that requires action now,” says Dr. Klassen.

Klassen said the most important actions that residents can continue to do are:

  • avoiding non-essential trips outside of the home;
  • wearing a face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. It is also recommended you wear a face covering outdoors if you cannot maintain physical distance of two metres (six feet) from others;
  • washing hands frequently and thoroughly; and
  • staying home when you are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.