CORNWALL — The Cornwall Community Hospital and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit say they are worried about a potential rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the days and weeks following the Thanksgiving long weekend — in light of an already high infection rate and a low vaccination uptake that are “significantly contributing to increased community spread and hospitalization” in the city.
Test positivity rates in Cornwall are currently five times higher than the provincial average, both organizations pointed out in an Oct. 7 press release that declared they were “ringing the alarm on worrying” trends in the city.
As of that date, there were 18 patients admitted at CCH with COVID-19, five in the Critical Care Unit; a month earlier, on September 7, there were only two in hospital. There were also eight CCH staff members at home with COVID-19 on Oct. 7. The hospital has already needed to tighten its visitor restrictions as a direct result and fears more changes to its operations and health care services will be required.
“The rate at which COVID-19 spreads in a community has a direct impact on its local hospital. It is very important for our patients that we maintain non-COVID related health care services such as elective surgeries, therefore we are pleading with the community: please take COVID-19 seriously, get vaccinated and stay vigilant,” said Jeanette Despatie, President and CEO of CCH.
Of particular concern is that some neighborhoods in Cornwall have among the lowest vaccination rates in Ontario, with as low as 69% of eligible residents being fully vaccinated. By comparison, 84% of the eligible population within the larger EOHU jurisdiction is fully vaccinated, and 82% of the province’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.
“It is not a coincidence that we are seeing such a large spike in cases and hospitalizations in Cornwall. The vast majority of these are occurring in unvaccinated individuals,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the EOHU. “In addition, high rates of community COVID-19 transmission translate into higher rates of cases and outbreaks in congregate and school settings, which we’re now seeing.”
“The solution is to increase the vaccination rate in the Cornwall area and to continue following public health guidelines,” said Roumeliotis. He especially urged adherence to those guidelines during Thanksgiving Day weekend. .