Death toll rises in London region as more people test positive for COVID-19

The Middlesex-London Health Unit says 15 new cases were reported Tuesday, along with two deaths, plus a death in Elgin County.

Three women died Tuesday, two in London and one in Elgin County

Middlesex-London saw two more deaths related to COVID-19 as Elgin County recorded its first death after a woman in her 80s died in St. Thomas hospital. (CBC)

Three women over the age of 80 have died of COVID-19 as public health units continue to see a spike in numbers. 

The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) said Tuesday that a woman in her 80s and another woman in her 90s died. Earlier in the day, Southwest Public Health reported a woman in her 80s from Elgin County succumbed to the virus. 

Despite hopes that the curve would begin to flatten, 15 new cases of COVID-19 were reported by MLHU. It's the single biggest one-day increase in the London area since the outbreak began, bringing the total number to 52.

"We are seeing spread where there is no travel and no close contact with known cases of COVID-19," said Dr. Chris Mackie, the region's medical officer of health, in a statement.

Health officials said the new cases are patients between the ages of 20 and 90. 

"I can't make this any clearer, what we do now will determine how the situation unfolds in London and Middlesex County," Dr. Mackie said. "It is time to stay home and only go into the community for the essentials."

The rise in recent cases is a result of medical labs being able to clear a "backlog of tests that had been pending," Mackie said.

First death in Elgin County, new cases elsewhere

On Tuesday, Ontario announced 260 new cases, bringing the total number of cases to 1,966. Several nursing homes in the province have also seen outbreaks, including Sarnia's Landmark Village. 

That facility reported six coronavirus-related deaths Monday. 

The woman who died in Elgin County did not live in a long-term care home, but in a non-profit seniors' apartment building in West Elgin, according to officials.

"We are deeply saddened by this loss of life and offer our condolences to their loved ones," said Dr. Joyce Lock, medical officer of health for Southwest Public Health. The organization oversees St. Thomas, Woodstock, and Elgin and Oxford counties. 

Lock said it seems the woman caught the virus from close contact, and a second resident in the building has now been hospitalized after testing positive.

"This death underscores what a serious virus this is," Dr. Lock said. "Now we all need to double-down on our commitment to protect each other — particularly our most vulnerable."

Officials said they're working with staff at the building to inform the other residents and provide guidance "on the infection, prevention and control practices."

One new case was reported in both Oxford County and Grey Bruce.

An Oxford County man in his 60s remains in isolation after getting the virus from travelling, and a female in her 30s tested positive in Grey Bruce, officials said.

The London Health Sciences Centre said seven patients were in their two hospitals Tuesday, and four of the patients were in critical care.