The Northwestern Health Unit is reporting a double digit increase of new COVID-19 cases for the second straight day.
The health unit announced 10 new cases in its Kenora health hub, along with another four in the Sioux Lookout health hub, on Friday. One day earlier, the health unit had announced 13 cases in the Sioux Lookout health hub and one in the Kenora area health hub.
Northwestern Health Unit medical officer of health Dr. Kit Young Hoon said there is an increased COVID-19 risk in the Kenora and Sioux Lookout health hubs with cases in a number of communities, usually with a few households affected.
The health unit area was elevated into the Red-Control level of the province’s colour-coded pandemic response framework, after emerging from the stay-at-home order in the Yellow-Protect zone. The numbers are being closely monitored to determine whether the region should be further moved into the Grey-Lockdown tier of restrictions, Young Hoon added.
“At this time, the red level does make sense for our catchment area but that will have to be reassessed every week based on COVID cases,” she said.
The health unit had 67 active cases across its catchment area on Friday, with 32 in each of the Kenora and Sioux Lookout health hubs and the remaining three in the Dryden health hub.
Dr. John Guilfoyle, a public health physician and the incident commander for the COVID-19 regional response with the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority, said there are 26 active cases in nine separate communities served by the agency.
Many of the recent cases are linked to travel, he said.
“People are certainly avoiding non-essential travel as much as possible, but unfortunately because we go from these communities which have very little infection normally, coming back from areas where there are high rates brings the possibility of bringing the virus with them, and that’s exactly what we’re finding,” Guilfoyle said.
Guilfoyle said people are tested upon returning to the community to try to detect early to contain the virus.
The health unit will start operating COVID-19 vaccination clinics next week, with those eligible including those born in 1941 or earlier, health care workers, Indigenous adults and home care recipients.
Young Hoon said there will be clinics in 13 communities across the health unit’s eight health hubs, with a target of aiming to vaccinate between 3,500 and 4,000 people per week.