In what seemed like a cruel April fool’s joke, we received news on April 1st that the Province was applying a province wide emergency brake in response to the escalating caseloads and a shift in new variants. This means effective April 3rd the colour-coded zones have been paused and the Province will re-evaluate our situation after one month to determine if restrictions should be lifted or extended.
Regional Council receives regular updates from Dr. Hirji regarding Niagara’s caseload, vaccination schedule and response. Based on our regional update provided Thursday, we learned that the new variants now represent about 35% of our COVID caseloads. These new variants have a 60% greater risk of hospitalization, double the risk of ICU admission and nearly 50% greater risk of death. These information workshops are posted publicly online, are approximately 1 – 1.5 hours in length and are well worth the watch if you’d like to keep informed on how the pandemic is evolving in Niagara and our public health response. You can find our recent workshop here:
Vaccination statistics have also been added to the Region’s website to help keep everyone informed on the number of doses administered and also the percentage of age groups vaccinated with either the first or second dose. Niagara has now vaccinated 78% of our 80 plus population, 53% of our 75-79 aged population and 18% or our 70-74 aged population. As a bit of good news Niagara has vaccinated about 11.6% of our population overall, which seems low but is actually higher than the provincial average.
New variants are primarily responsible for pushing Ontario into a third wave as they spread more quickly and are more severe in nature. We’ve been told we cannot vaccinate our way out of a third wave and need restrictions to help temper the impacts. We have seen a shift in who now represents our caseloads. We’ve seen an escalation of cases amongst those 59 years or younger and a subsequent decrease of cases amongst the 60 plus population. This shift may be attributable to the impact of variants or may show that vaccinations are starting to take effect.
We’re also seeing a majority of spread taking effect in the community instead of being attributable to specific spaces such as workplaces, the agricultural sector or restaurants. There’s also been an escalation of cases in schools, who now represent the majority of our outbreak locations.
Another good news item is that Thursday the Province opened up appointments for the AstraZeneca vaccine in select pharmacies for eligible people aged 55 or older, including Niagara. You must have an appointment to get vaccinated at a pharmacy and contact the participating pharmacy to book an appointment. Where can we find these pharmacies? You can search online based on postal code at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations
In the meantime, this means we should all continue to follow public health protocols, limit close contact to your household, and limit trips outside of the home except for necessities. In hindsight, I never thought we’d be still be dealing with public health protocols a full year out. Last March seemed to last for years and this March flew by in a matter of days. What a year it has been! I hope everyone takes the time to rest and recharge over the Easter holiday weekend and find solace in that fact that warmer weather is ahead, and with it comes spring flowers, sunshine and fresh air. Stay well everyone.