The Grey Bruce Health Unit reported 33 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday with two more confirmed virus-related deaths and three suspected deaths pending confirmation.
The newest cases were reported in Owen Sound (9), Brockton (7), Saugeen Shores (4), South Bruce Peninsula (4), Hanover (3), Arran-Elderslie (2), Kincardine (2), Meaford and South Bruce.
Dr. Ian Arra, Grey-Bruce’s medical officer of health, said the three deaths are pending confirmation because it’s not clear COVID-19 is the cause of death.
One individual had the virus recently but was thought to have recovered before their death. Two others have connections to a community that has been hardest hit by the virus locally, and so their deaths are being further investigated to see if COVID-19 played a part, Arra said.
“The three of them did not die in the hospital,” Arra said.
No fully immunized Grey-Bruce resident, those with both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, has died. One of the recent deaths was a person who was partially immunized, with a single dose of the vaccine, Arra said.
Arra said the more severe Delta variant currently circulating through the region, as well as the socioeconomic status of many of the infected individuals, is likely leading to more serious health implications.
“It’s affecting the most disadvantaged people, and low socioeconomic status is usually an indicator of health,” Arra said. “People would have multiple reasons to not fare well with this disease, but the Delta variant being more severe is definitely evident.”
If the three pending deaths are confirmed, the total number of Grey-Bruce residents to die because of COVID-19 will increase to 16.
According to an update posted to the Saugeen First Nation website Tuesday, a member of the community has died with COVID-19 and another death is pending a post-mortem investigation.
Arra said Tuesday he expected the local daily case count to trend back up after only four new cases were reported in the region. He cited a large number of high-risk contacts and a recent party in Chesley where evidence suggests the virus was spread.
On Wednesday, Arra confirmed most of the new cases reported were high-risk contacts previously being followed by the health unit.
Wednesday’s situation report distributed by the health unit – report No. 484 of the pandemic – came with a highlighted note from the medical officer of health.
It reads: “If a loved one or someone you know is using or seeking substance, please strongly advise them to take COVID-19 precautions. If in doubt be prudent in taking these precautions yourself when around them. Everyone – get your vaccinations now!”
The health unit has said the highly transmissible Delta variant has spread among the region’s transient community and their associates including family and friends and is part of the reason for the surge in Grey-Bruce.
As of Wednesday’s report, which includes data from the 24-hour period ending just before midnight the previous day, there were 171 active COVID-19 cases in the region and 349 high-risk contacts.
The Grey-Bruce region trails only the Region of Waterloo and Toronto in active cases, according to provincial data.
Still, Arra said the region is on track to move to Step 3 of the province’s reopening plan Friday citing increased protection through the region’s vaccination effort.
Fifteen Grey-Bruce residents infected with COVID-19 are hospitalized in the region, and three more have been transferred to hospitals outside of Grey-Bruce.
To date, there have been 1,898 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Grey-Bruce including 102 in health care workers.
Of those, 1,712 are considered resolved.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit has administered 197,396 total doses of the COVID-19 vaccines including 19,949 in the past seven days.
Several licensed child care centres in the region have had COVID-19 cases recently, according to data from the province’s website.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit is currently reporting one outbreak at Bobi’s Playschool in Meaford. The two children confirmed to be infected, and their affected cohorts, have been asked to stay home.
Dr. Ian Arra said Tuesday that for an outbreak to be declared, there needs to be evidence of person-to-person transmission within the childcare setting.
The province reports all confirmed cases within child care settings and schools.
According to their data, Binoojiinh Gamig Day Care Centre at the Saugeen First Nation has five confirmed cases. Owen Sound YMCA Early Learning Centre in Owen Sound, The Hungry Hippo Childcare Centre in Owen Sound, and Viola Jean’s Garden Daycare in Owen Sound all have had a single confirmed case of COVID-19 recently.
All of those infected are children, the provincial data shows.
Arra said transmission within the setting is key for an outbreak to be determined. He said, by way of example, two individuals at a business recently tested positive for COVID-19, but because they had a relationship outside of the workplace, the transmission was likely to have occurred elsewhere and hadn’t spread to other employees. Therefore, an outbreak was not declared.
Arra said outbreak declarations take public risk into account.
“The schools early on were reporting every single case, even if a child was studying remotely. Well, to the public health and risk assessment, there is no risk there,” he said.
Public health units throughout Ontario reported 153 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday as well as seven additional virus-related deaths.
The seven-day rolling average sat at 164 Wednesday as daily cases continue to decline in general.
Out of just over 29,000 COVID-19 tests processed by Ontario labs in the last reporting period, a test positivity rate of 0.6 per cent was reported.
Ministry of Health data showed there were 214 COVID-19 patients in hospital with 180 in intensive care units and 116 on ventilators.
More than 7.8 million people are fully vaccinated in Ontario after receiving two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.