The Grey Bruce Health Unit reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 Friday.
The newest cases were found in Saugeen Shores (4), Owen Sound (3), South Bruce (2), Georgian Bluffs (2), Blue Mountains (2), Southgate, and Northern Bruce Peninsula.
It’s only the fifth case to be reported in Northern Bruce Peninsula throughout the pandemic, but there are three active cases in the municipality, according to the health unit’s data.
There are 123 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in the two counties including 60 involving variants of concern.
Five COVID-19 patients being tracked by the health unit are hospitalized in Grey-Bruce and two are hospitalized outside of the region. Five COVID-19 patients have been transferred from outside the region to local intensive care units.
The health unit’s contact management team is following 585 high-risk contacts of known COVID-19 cases.
To date, 1,152 Grey-Bruce residents have had confirmed COVID-19 cases including 89 health care workers. Of those, 1,025 cases are now considered resolved.
The health unit has administered 53,300 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Grey-Bruce including 7,620 in the past seven days.
Up-to-date information on the region’s vaccine progress can be found at the health unit’s website and vaccine dashboard.
At a Grey Bruce Board of Health meeting Friday, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ian Arra said golf was an unquestionably safe activity, but not essential.
Arra said one of the main goals of the province’s stay-at-home order is to reduce mobility and intra-provincial travel. He said the province’s decision to close golf courses is a means to that end.
Furthermore, Arra said he intends to circulate a memo to Grey-Bruce municipalities clarifying the province’s restrictions with regards to boat launches. Currently, boat launches have opened in Owen Sound and Georgian Bluffs, but remain closed in other municipalities as different interpretations of the restrictions appear to have been made.
Arra reiterated the local medical officer of health does not have the authority to overturn provincial restrictions but can make measures more restrictive or create further restrictions if needed.
The Blue Mountains Mayor Alar Soever has written an open letter on his own behalf – not on behalf of The Blue Mountains council – criticizing four municipal councillors for their “unwarranted attack” on Dr. Ian Arra.
Soever addressed the open letter to four local municipal councillors – John Tamming, Cathy Moore Coburn, Melissa Kanmacher, and Ryan Greig – who were signees of a previous letter to the Grey Bruce Board of Health containing questions and concerns about Arra’s compensation. It requested he return the “excess money he was paid.” It also asked the board to bring in a public health consultant to advise on improving management of the health unit, claiming staff turnover since Arra’s appointment was “substantial and unprecedented.”
Arra was paid $631,000 in 2020, which was 64 per cent more than he received in 2019 due to pandemic-related overtime. The salary made him the highest-paid medical officer of health in Ontario last year.
Soever’s letter was included as an item of correspondence at Friday’s board of health meeting. In it, Soever commends Arra’s work ethic and the relatively positive pandemic outlook in the region.
“Particularly impressive is the fact we have had no major outbreaks in our long-term-care homes and seniors residences. Unlike most of the rest of Ontario, the few cases we have had have been quickly contained and isolated through rigorous application of best practice health protocols. In contrast, in most of the rest of Ontario there have been large outbreaks in long-term-care facilities and many deaths,” Soever said.
He lists continued contact tracing efforts, proactive community engagement in securing freezers for vaccine storage, and developing the Hockey Hub mass-vaccination model in a list of acknowledged health unit accomplishments.
“I am advised that Dr. Arra’s salary is set by the Ministry of Health and includes a provision for overtime. Although I don’t know the exact details of the hours he works, on multiple occasions (he) has called me or responded to my e-mails late at night, a few times after midnight. Just last night I received a response to an enquiry of mine on behalf of our seniors at 2:12 a.m.,” Soever said.
Earlier this month, Grey County council voted unanimously to write a letter of support to Arra and the health unit team for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pregnant women have been bumped to the front of the line in Ontario after several reports of expectant mothers landing in ICUs with severe COVID-19 related illness.
In a statement Friday morning, the premier’s office said it was prioritizing pregnant women “in response to emerging data on the increased risk of severe illness for pregnant women.”
All pregnant women in Ontario are now eligible to register for a vaccination appointment.
Meanwhile, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is now recommending the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine be offered to all Canadians over 30.
Previous guidance from the committee said the shot should only be used on those 55 and older.
Ontario has lowered its minimum age requirement for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to 40 and older. Officials said Friday the 40-plus age limit in Ontario will stay in place until more vaccine supply is available.
NACI’s guidance is a recommendation and does not override Health Canada’s guidance or the conditions of the vaccine’s approval.
Public health units throughout Ontario reported 4,505 cases of COVID-19 Friday and 34 more COVID-19-related deaths.
Ontario’s hospitalization rates continued to surge, with 2,287 people reportedly in hospital including 818 in intensive care and 593 patients who required a ventilator.
Ontario administered 133,872 vaccine doses and has now administered 4,400,674 total doses.