UPDATE: The numbers have been updated to those reported by the region Wednesday, with a slight increase in NOTL.
While Niagara-on-the-Lake has a relatively few number of COVID-19 cases, by population, it’s the second-highest in the region at the moment.
As of Wednesday, June 16, there are 17 people with active cases in town. That’s an active infection rate of 9 per 10,000 people, the statistic used by the region to break down the number of cases per municipality.
The only Niagara city with a higher percentage is Niagara Falls, with 9.1 active cases per 10,000.
The current cases are from spread within households, the region reported Monday. “An initial case brings infection to the home, which then spreads to one to three other members of the household. Over 80 per cent of NOTL cases have been part of households with multiple cases,” according to information provided by Dr. Mustafa Hirji, the region’s acting chief medical officer of health.
Several people have spread COVID-19 after social gatherings with friends, he said, and that has spread infection between households, sparking the pattern noted in NOTL.
That information came the same day Hirji reported encouraging news of the falling number of new cases in Ontario. Hospitals are clearing out COVID patients, although the number of those in intensive care has not seen a corresponding drop, he said.
Although Niagara numbers are “a little less positive” than provincial daily cases, the region recorded only six new infections Monday, and the reproductive number is still below one.
However, as provincial restrictions ease, Hirji said he’s not ready just yet to rescind his Section 22 order, which, unlike in other areas of Ontario, allows only four people who live in the same household, with some exceptions, to sit at a patio table together. He is waiting for a seven-day average of new cases to drop.
“My sense is they’re disappointed,” he said of Niagara restaurant owners. “But most of them are going to follow through, given they are responsible operators.”
Comments on social media, on the other hand, offer mixed opinions, with some people wanting the reopening to proceed cautiously, while others question why restrictions are more strict in Niagara, he said.
He still has a number of concerns, chiefly among the younger age groups, who are not getting vaccinated as quickly as he would like to see. He is also worried that not enough of them are being tested, “which is how we are going to control COVID-19,” because it allows for contact tracing to stop the spread of infection.
The good news is he’s not seeing the increase in the more transmissible and more serious Delta variant, a trend he hopes will continue, although he still fears there is the potential for it to increase rapidly, he said.
As the province begins moving through its reopening steps, it’s important to increase the number of vaccinations in the region, both with first doses for younger people and second doses for the older age groups that have already had their first shots, said Hirji.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm on the part of older people signing up for their second dose,” and that might be making appointments more scarce for those looking for their first shot.
While he acknowledged there has been some frustration amongst those who have tried but have been unable to find appointments close to home, especially for younger people, there will be increased numbers of vaccines, particularly Moderna, coming to the region, and more appointments opening up. Niagara Health has already added some clinics, and public health will be doing the same. Pharmacies and primary care physicians also continue to offer vaccinations, but haven’t been receiving a lot of vaccine, Hirji said.
“Unfortunately at this very moment there probably aren’t a lot of appointments,” he said, “but my hope is that even a few days from now there will be some more, and a lot more over the summer.