Delta variant 'number one concern,' says Thunder Bay district medical officer of health
4 new COVID-19 cases reported in Thunder Bay district on Thursday
The top public health official in the Thunder Bay district says the delta COVID-19 variant is her top concern, even though only a couple of those cases have been detected in the area over the last several months.
The delta variant, which is also known as the one first identified in India, has prompted concern from some public health experts across the province that it could cause a fourth wave of the pandemic in Ontario.
Dr. Janet DeMille said only two delta variant cases have been detected within the Thunder Bay district over last several months, but neither one is currently active. She said both were related to international travel, whether the individual had gone abroad themselves or were closely associated with someone who had travelled.
DeMille said while most of the variant cases identified locally have been the alpha variant, which was first detected in the U.K., she said the delta variant is her "number one concern."
"I think part of it is just the uncertainty about the delta variant," she said. "It's one of the newer ones. It's impacted other countries. What we see and what we're learning from a lot is the United Kingdom, where they had a lot of that alpha variant and it's been replaced by the delta variant."
"We know that it is in Ontario, especially in the [Greater Toronto Area]. It is seemingly more infectious than any of the other variants we know about. It's unclear about whether it causes greater need for hospitalization."
DeMille said evidence from the U.K. suggests that two doses of vaccine are required to provide sufficient protection against the delta variant.
4 new cases on Thursday
The Thunder Bay District Health Unit reported four new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the third straight day with case increases below five. Three of the new cases are located within Thunder Bay and the surrounding area, while one is in a district community. Three are close contacts of existing cases and one had no known exposure to the virus.
The active case count is 51, with nine previously announced cases now considered resolved.
Two additional variant of concern cases have been identified.
DeMille said the situation for a recent cluster of cases, which had been reported in the Greenstone area and Long Lake 58 First Nation and were responsible for a surge in the region's case numbers, appears to be improving.
"We still see cases that are appearing but the numbers seem to be dropping," she said. "We're working with many partners in those communities to support bringing this to an end. It's very difficult, these are variants of concern — not the delta one — but they're spreading."
"COVID spreads and it can spread easily, whether it's that cluster or anywhere."
DeMille said the region's vaccination clinics are being filled, as eligibility increases for both first and second doses.
The health unit's most recent seven-day period had over 10,000 doses administered, but supply remains the main limiting factor, she added.
"We are really trying to open up appointment slots in the future based on what we know we're going to get for supply," DeMille said.
As of June 5, more than 95,000 people in the Thunder Bay district had received at least their first dose.