Watch: EOHU region flirts with orange status as Dr. Paul Roumeliotis reports record single day case increase and confirms charges against Freedom March organizers

EASTERN ONTARIO — During the previous media briefing conducted by Eastern Ontario’s Medical Officer, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis spoke about a reassuring decline in rolling averages of COVID-19 infections in Eastern Ontario. However, yesterday’s update from the doctor (Dec. 4) was not quite as reassuring.

The trend seems to have taken a rather discouraging upward turn in the last two days — a rise of 55 cases, including a record single day increase of 43 reported yesterday (Friday). Twenty are in Prescott-Russell, four are in SD&G, 18 in Cornwall, and 1 in the northern portion of Akwesasne. He reported that the majority of the reported cases were from household clusters, but that the minority of cases with no links puts a huge burden on the health system.

“We’re really hovering above the red line for the most part. Above the red line is the orange zone, and I’m quite worried about that.” Roumeliotis said. “On the one hand, we know where they are. On the other hand, they are very high numbers. My hope is that next week, the number will go down.” Roumeliotis said.

As for outbreaks in congregant living settings, the region is back down to one: at the Prescott and Russell Residence. Roumeliotis said that 85 of the 109 positive cases among the residents have been resolved, and 66 of the 68 positive cases among staff have also been resolved. The EOHU, in collaboration with the Red Cross and the EMS, is now waiting for the last active cases to be resolved before declaring the outbreak over. There are also now 34 positive cases in 17 schools, including North Dundas District High school and St. Isidore Catholic Elementary School.

In response to a question from Nation Valley News about celebrating Christmas during the pandemic, Roumeliotis recommended not travelling for the holidays and not receiving people into your home, especially people who have travelled from red zones.

Roumeliotis concluded the media update by speaking briefly about the vaccine, which is expected to be approved by Health Canada in the coming weeks and delivered to distribution points across the province sometime in January.

“We’ve had experience in rolling out vaccines, so I’m not concerned about that. My only concern is that this time it’s going to be different. It’ll be very difficult to have mass immunizations with long line ups, given that we are in a pandemic situation.” Roumeliotis said. “We are getting ready for the scenario where we need to roll out the vaccine to the elderly in retirement homes and long-term care facilities as a primary goal, at the beginning of the year, with a two-dose regimen.”

He explained that if a person has been infected with COVID-19 before, that person should still get the vaccine. A person should also wait ten days from the time of testing positive before going out to get the vaccine.

In additional news, the testing centre in Limoges will soon be closed and moved back to Casselman. Roumeliotis said the move was made because operating and heating the Limoges centre was proving both difficult and costly.

Two organizers of last month’s “Freedom March”, which saw up to 150 people protest against masks and lockdowns, were charged by the Cornwall police for organizing a gathering exceeding 100 people. Both are due to appear in court on January 19th, 2021.

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