The London region saw seven new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, the majority stemming from community transmission.
According to the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU), five cases come from the general public. One case involves a resident of a long-term care home, while one other is a staff member of a retirement home.
Since the outbreak began, 431 people in the region have contracted the virus, but 274 have recovered so far.
“[I’m] very proud of the fact that we have flattened the curve here and that we are on the backside of this pandemic wave in this region,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, the medical officer of health and CEO of the MLHU.
There were no new deaths reported in the region Wednesday. The death toll is currently sitting at 42 with 23 people dead after contracting the virus in a seniors’ facilities.
Across Ontario, officials reported a total of 412 additional cases, ending two consecutive days of figures under 400.
The new cases bring the province’s total up to 18,722, however, a little more than 70 per cent of these cases have been marked as resolved.
Testing at long-term care ‘ahead of schedule’ as Ford slams public health units
For the second day in a row, the number of tests being processed was below Ontario’s 16,000 daily target. On Tuesday, Premer Doug Ford said some of the province’s medical officers of health aren’t getting enough COVID-19 tests done, especially at long-term care homes.
Dr. Mackie explained that the data available at the provincial level is not up to date with the work public health units are doing and said the gap will soon close up.
“I had a call with medical officers of health from the seven health units in the southwest region … and everyone is ahead of schedule [in long-term care testing] and everyone will be done that testing before the May 15 deadline,” he said.
Dr. Mackie did, however, mention the region put testing at these homes on hold between Friday until Tuesday due to a shortage of testing swabs. On Wednesday they were testing four of the 11 homes left in the region and Mackie predicts they’ll be completed by the weekend.
Cases at seniors’ facilities account for 133 of the 431 cases the region has seen over the course of the pandemic and at least nine facilities have declared outbreaks.
“Yes, swab supply has been a bit hit or miss at times, but what we’ve done is prioritize the testing of people with symptoms … It has slowed down our universal testing of long-term care, but, again, the testing of people with symptoms is priority and that has not slowed down.”
“I know the work that we’re doing. I know that we’re doing great work and I’m really proud of the work our staff is doing,” said Mackie.
Restrictions loosening up
Wednesday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford announced the province will loosen some restrictions in the coming days allowing garden centres, nurseries, hardware stores and safety supply stores to open, as long as they follow health and safety measures.
“We can’t take the progress we made for granted,” Ford said. “We will move forward, but we will move cautiously.”
Additionally, retail stores with street entrances will also be allowed to reopen for curbside pickup and delivery starting Monday.
Dr. Mackie said the timeline for opening up is appropriate. While keeping businesses closed is more effective in preventing any spread of the virus, the region is at a point where the risk is dropping, he said.
“You’ve also got a real change in culture,” he said. “People in this area now understand the value of physical distancing and you’ll get the same reaction [as in grocery stores] where people will do the best to keep apart.”
“My sense is that people won’t take this for granted,” added Mayor Ed Holder.
No new cases in surrounding counties
Officials in Huron-Perth said there were no new COVID-19 cases to report in the region for the third consecutive day.
Over the course of the pandemic, Huron and Perth have seen a total of 49 cases. Health officials said 34 of them have been resolved.
Meanwhile, Oxford and Elgin counties along with Grey Bruce are on a two-day streak with no new cases.
In Oxford and Elgin counties, 60 people have contracted the virus and 43 of them have recovered.
In Grey Bruce, 88 people have been infected and 64 have recovered.