Public health warns Windsor-Essex on a 'dangerous trajectory' as COVID-19 outbreaks, cases rise

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported three new COVID-19 outbreaks for the region Tuesday, including one at a place of worship and another at a housing complex. 

The health unit reported 55 new cases Tuesday

With rising cases and outbreaks, Ahmed said health unit staff are doing their best to keep up. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported three new COVID-19 outbreaks for the region Tuesday, including one at a place of worship and another at a housing complex. 

The region's medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said the region is on a "dangerous trajectory" as outbreaks rise across a number of sectors and 55 new cases are reported. 

Of the new cases, 18 are residents of a long-term care home, 13 are close contacts of a confirmed case, five are agri-farm workers, one is a local healthcare worker, one is travel-related to Michigan, one is community acquired and 16 are under investigation. 

The new outbreaks include: 

  • An agriculture workplace in Leamington. 
  • A place of worship in Leamington. 
  • A housing complex in Windsor called Riverplace Residence.

In addition to these, two schools — Frank W. Begley Public School and W. J. Langlois Catholic Elementary School — remain in outbreak. Begley now has 41 cases, 31 are students and eight are staff members. Two student cases are probable at this time.

There are five long-term care and retirement homes in outbreak. Riverside Place in Windsor has reported a spike in new cases with 17 residents and two staff members testing positives. 

Other homes in outbreak include:

  • Leamington Mennonite in Leamington with one staff case. 
  • Berkshire Care Center in Windsor with two staff cases. 
  • Lifetimes on Riverside in Windsor with five resident cases and four staff cases. 
  • Iler Lodge in Essex with 18 resident cases and three staff cases. 

The outbreak at the University of Windsor student residence was rescinded Monday, though another on-campus student  has tested positive, the school said in a news release Monday. This case is unrelated to previously reported cases, the statement says, adding that the student is self-isolating and cleaning measures are being followed. 

There is also another workplace outbreak in Leamington's agriculture sector. 

As of Tuesday, 315 cases are active and of those, 16 are in hospital with five in the ICU. 

With the rise in community cases and outbreaks across all sectors, Ahmed said if we continue on this path we may see the region move into the province's red — or control — category by end of the week. 

The Greater Essex County District School Board has passed a balanced budget for the 2019-20 school year. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

"Just about a month ago we were having a good time in terms of looking at our case counts, said Ahmed. "How quickly we have come to this part."

A return to the type of restrictions outlined in the red zone would be unfortunate, said Ahmed, but "the numbers are the numbers." 

He said he thinks the region is very close to the "tipping point" of entering the red, but that he uses his "optimism hat every day" and feels there's still time to "turn it around." 

Public board reports more cases

The Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) reported a more COVID-19 cases Monday. 

According to its website, the following schools reported cases in the last week: 

  • Riverside has one case from Nov. 22 and one case from Nov. 23. 
  • Sandwich Secondary has one case from Nov. 23. 
  • Sandwich West P.S. has one case from Nov. 21.
  • Tecumseh Vista Elementary has one case from Nov. 19 and one case from Nov. 23.
  • West Gate has two cases, one reported on Nov. 18. 

During Tuesday's COVID-19 briefing, when CBC News asked whether the health unit would consider closing more schools if cases or outbreaks continue to rise, Ahmed said the health unit would consider several factors before making that call. 

And as a start, Ahmed said, his team needs to better understand the events that took place at F.W. Begley Public School.

"That would be a very important test case for us to understand what happened at Begley and what kind of transmission pattern that we are observing," Ahmed said.

"If that transmission happened as a result of something we can fix, obviously we would want to do that but if some of these things are something that we cannot control and if the community gets to a point where we are seeing a widespread transmission that puts all these children at risk at school then we'll have to have that discussion." 

Last Tuesday, the entire student body and staff were dismissed after three confirmed COVID-19 cases. It marked the region's first school outbreak. 


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