Vaccination of priority populations to start next week, conclude by end of January in EOHU region; Roumeliotis supports roping off non-essential inventory at big-box retailers

EASTERN ONTARIO — In the EOHU’s first media briefing of 2021 (January 5th), Medical Officer of Health Dr Paul Roumeliotis reported a substantial increase in COVID-19 cases over the holidays, despite the lockdown of Eastern Ontario.

There are now 489 active cases in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region, to bring the total cumulative cases to 1,730. This marks a rise of 230 cases since the EOHU’s last COVID-19 update on December 30th. Roumeliotis said that these infections likely occurred shortly after the implementation of the lockdown. There are, however, still no cases of the fast-spreading COVID-19 variant in the region.

There has been one additional death in the region attributed to COVID-19. This is a result of the ongoing outbreak at Tsiionkwanonhso:te Long Term Care Home in Akwesasne, which currently has nine staff who have tested positive for the virus.

Outbreaks in congregate living settings are ongoing at Russell Meadows Retirement Home, St-Joseph’s Continuing Care Centre, Woodland Villa, Glen Stor Dun Lodge, Lancaster Long Term Care, and the Cornwall Community Hospital’s critical care unit. They are joined by recently reported outbreaks at Chateau Glengarry Alexandria, Maxville Manor, Sandfield Place LTC & Retirement Home, Community Living-Dundas, Residence Prescott Russel, and the Cornwall Community Hospital’s inpatient Mental Health unit.

The outbreak at Glen Stor Dun Lodge currently has three positive residents and three positive staff.

Over the holidays, outbreaks were officially declared over at Valoris Residence (211), Pinecrest Nursing Home, Champlain Long Term Care, The Palace Long Term Care, and Heritage Heights.
The school outbreak at École élémentaire catholique Saint-Isidore was also declared over, leaving only one school outbreak ongoing at École secondaire catholique L’Escale.

In a bit of much needed good news, Roumeliotis announced that the Pfizer vaccine will be arriving in Eastern Ontario next week, at which time mass immunizations of vulnerable populations will begin. The first delivery is expected to be 1,200 doses, and the vaccination of priority populations will likely be completed by the end of January.

However, Roumeliotis said that while this may mark the “beginning of the end” for the pandemic, it’s not over yet. He emphasized the importance of continuing following the recommended public health instructions.

Meanwhile,the ability of big-box stores to remain open as a source of essential groceries and pharmaceuticals while still selling every other product in their inventory is the most common complaint received by the doctor since the start of the current lockdown. Roumeliotis voiced his support for curtailing what those retailers may offer, as in Quebec and some other jurisdictions where clothing and other non-essential aisles are blocked or cordoned off at places like Walmart. It’s a matter of fairness to smaller operators who have been compelled to close, according to Eastern Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health.

“It’s a thorn in my side,” he said, adding he has written to the province to fix what he views as a “valid complaint.”

“I think it’s unfair to the small retail businesses,” the doctor observed.

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