UPDATE: There were 36 new COVID cases in Niagara Thursday. The Premier is expected to move some regions in Ontario into more restrictive zones Friday. Dr. Hirji is saying Niagara could be one of them.
The Niagara Region saw a bit of a spike in COVID cases on the weekend, but the numbers coming down early in the week, says Dr. Mustafa Hirji, Niagara Region’s acting medical officer of health.
That’s not enough to draw conclusions, he says, noting that while the number of cases was high two weekends ago, it was followed by lower numbers the following weekend.
“Individual numbers tend to jump up and down,” he says. Over the course of a few days, he said Monday, “it’s not so bad.”
However, by Thursday, they were up again, with 36 new cases, 20 on Wednesday and 33 Tuesday.
Niagara saw 26 new cases Saturday, 38 Sunday, 20 on Monday, and a jump to 34 new cases Monday.
It was Nov. 14 when he instituted his Section 22 restrictions, which included the controversial one household per table at eating and drinking establishments, and while he says he isn’t seeing cases originating in those venues, he’s still not ready to consider rescinding them.
“Our numbers are not going up very much, and that’s good, and quite different from our neighbours in Hamilton, Halton and across the border.”
With evidence that bar and restaurant restrictions are working, “I wouldn’t want to change them. We’re not seeing links to restaurants any more. We seem to have been able to sort them, so the restrictions had the intended effect. I think we would want to see case numbers come down with a margin of safety first.
He said with Niagara in the middle of the orange zone still, “there’s not enough of a buffer to take them away.”
He’s mindful of the holidays coming up, but any decisions will continue to be based on the number of COVID cases in the region.
“I would love to give people an early Christmas present and lift these restrictions, but ultimately the best decisions are based on what is best for the community.”
There have been a few ongoing outbreaks, with new cases linked to households where cases are spreading from one family member to another, and socializing with friends and co-workers.
There are also “a few more cases of community spread” where the origin is unknown, he says, including one of the new cases in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is now recording a total case count of 63 from the start of the pandemic until Tuesday.
The other new NOTL case is from someone in close contact with family members.
One of those was in the 40 to 60 age group, the other in the 60 to 80 category.
Across the region, the 20-something age group is still representing the highest number of cases, although with a shift downward, while the 40 to 60 group is moving upwards, he says.
“We’re not sure of why yet.”
He said he hopes the restrictions targeted at the younger group members are working, but has no explanation about why there is a trend upward in the older groups.