Thunder Bay

Lower COVID-19 case counts in Thunder Bay region 'reassuring': medical officer of health

The medical officer of health with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit said Thursday she's optimistic as COVID-19 case numbers in the district drop.

Dr. Janet DeMille says she's optimistic, but notes things can change quickly

The medical officer of health with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit says she's "optimistic" as COVID-19 case numbers fall, and vaccination rates rise, in the district. (Valentina Petrova/The Associated Press)

The medical officer of health with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit said Thursday she's optimistic as COVID-19 case numbers in the district drop, but Dr. Janet DeMille noted things can change quickly.

"What we've shown, over the last couple of weeks especially, is that we can maintain low case numbers here," DeMille said Thursday on CBC's Superior Morning. "The fact that we continue to do that and then also increasing our vaccination rate, makes me fairly reassured and optimistic for the future."

However, DeMille said she's "still a little bit a little bit nervous" given what's happening elsewhere in Ontario.

Since March 22, there have been 41 cases with variants of concern identified in the district (every positive COVID-19 test is screened for a variant after the case is reported to public health).

DeMille said the number isn't surprising.

"We did have a couple of outbreaks that were related to the variants," she said, adding that variant cases can be spread through close contact in a person's household as they isolate.

"The number, overall, is low, the spread is controlled," she said. "I'm really just hoping it doesn't spread any further or crop up in different places."

So far, about 35 per cent of the eligible population in the district has been vaccinated, or partially vaccinated, against the virus.

"I'm really pleased with that," DeMille said. "These are numbers that go up every day."

"More people are protected, their families are protected, workplaces are protected, and more broadly, the community is protected," she said. "The more we go with that number going up, you know, the harder this virus is going to find it spreading in this area."

As of Thursday, people 50 and over are eligible to book vaccination appointments through the province (previously, vaccination appointments for people that age could only be made through pharmacies).

And DeMille said the province plans to continue lowering the age of eligibility throughout May.

"Over next week, we might see it go down to 40 and over, and that will carry through," she said. "We're also going to see eligibility for essential workers who can work from home. And under the Ontario plan, they've divided that into sort of group one and group two. Well, Group one will also be eligible [Thursday]."

"Over the course of May … a larger number of people will be eligible, and we'll be putting information out on our social media and our website as this moves forward."

DeMille said if COVID-19 numbers in the district stay low throughout May, it's possible that schools could reopen to in-person learning in June.

"I really want schools to reopen for in-person learning," she said. "I know there's a lot of harms, and people are really challenged when that's not happening, and I'm very much hoping and anticipating that there will be a reopening for sure for June, especially if we can if we maintain our numbers."

"It always comes down to numbers, but I think we're showing that we know what we're capable of that way," DeMille said. "Certainly, the vaccination numbers are going to help us. So those conversations are happening."

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