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Klassen estimates at least late spring before most of Huron-Perth vaccinated

Colin Burrowes

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


HURON-PERTH – With the addition of another 12 cases of COVID-19, the cumulative total for the region announced by Dr. Miriam Klassen, Huron-Perth medical officer of health, during the Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) media briefing on Jan. 7, is 793 cases.

There are currently 96 active cases in the region with four people hospitalized due to COVID-19 symptoms. With the passing of two Exeter Villa residents in the past week, the virus-related deaths in Huron-Perth now totals 23.

There are seven active outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes. These include Braemar Nursing Home in North Huron with two staff cases, Livingstone Manor in North Perth with two staff and two resident cases, Hillside Manor in Perth East, Knollcrest Lodge in Perth East with two staff cases, Seaforth Manor in Huron East with one staff case and Exeter Villa in South Huron, both the long-term care and retirement areas.

At Exeter Villa there have been 31 cases confirmed among the long-term care residents – two of which have died – nine have recovered. There have been eight cases amongst staff, seven have recovered and one is still considered active. There was also one case in a retirement home resident which has been resolved.

The province wants to ensure that all residents, health care workers and essential caregivers at long-term care homes are vaccinated in the priority regions of Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex by Jan. 21.

“Huron-Perth has not yet been identified as a priority region but as soon as we get our first allotment of vaccine we will be targeting the same priority populations,” said Klassen. “Locally there has been very good uptake from our healthcare workers through phase one of the vaccine distribution plan with many of our long-term care and retirement homes hitting their target in terms of the number of staff we were hoping to vaccinate at this stage.”

Klassen said vaccine delivery hasn’t been predictable and stable.

“It’s coming in in small allotments but eventually we’re anticipating the delivery will be a predictable, routine and stable supply of vaccine and that’s when we’ll get rolling with mass vaccination clinics,” she said. “It’s going to be many months yet before it’s offered that broadly.”

Ontario has three phases planned to start with residents, staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes, retirement homes and other congregate setting providing care to seniors, indigenous communities, healthcare workers and adult recipients of chronic home care.

“Those are the priority populations in phase one and we’re still at the very beginning of that,” said Klassen. “After that, it moves into other essential service providers – people like police, firefighters, people who work in grocery stores and pharmacies and so forth.”

Then it will roll out by age so older more vulnerable people will be next and it will move down to younger people over time.

“That is in alignment with the ethical framework that is looking at factors like who are the people who are most severely impacted and have the worst outcomes, who are the people who are most capable of transmitting the virus and who are the people who are part of upholding essential services,” she said. “I’m thinking late spring/early summer before it is getting out into the rest of the population. Having said that, don’t hold me to that because it’s not predictable. What the government is doing is as soon as vaccine comes they are trying to get it out.”

Klassen said that during the period while vaccinations are happening people still need to follow Public Health recommendations and treat everyone they come in contact with as a potential source of infection.

“There is no such thing as walls when it comes to a pandemic and a virus like this,” she said. “If Toronto is struggling then the rest of us are struggling and it’s the same thing globally. If one part of the world continues to struggle with the pandemic that will be a source of infection for the rest of us.”

According to Klassen, the framework with the green, yellow, orange, red, grey was a good science-informed attempt to have a bit more of a regional approach but, she said the truth even in lockdown the numbers have not been coming down, so it’s not working. She mentioned

Toronto as an example because it was in lockdown before most other regions in the province.

“Tougher measures are needed and it is going to affect us (in Huron-Perth),” she said. “We benefit from less density, we don’t have a border, we don’t have an airport with people coming through so it’s not that in other parts of the province they aren’t necessarily doing as good of a job, there are different risk factors and pressures in every region.”