“Adherence to vaccination recommendations will remain an integral part of personal health protection,” said Dr. Strauss
By David Judd
THE worst of COVID-19 is over.
Dr. Matt Strauss, Acting Medical Officer of Health, had good news in his monthly report to the Board of Health last week.
Across Ontario, hospital cases have dropped, including in Haldimand-Norfolk where on Monday of this week the health unit reported just four COVID patients in hospital, one of them in intensive care.
A week earlier 12 COVID patients were in hospital, four of them in intensive care.
On the weekend, occupancy of area hospitals’ 164 beds dropped to 79 per cent, down from 83 per cent the week before.
“It’s an exciting and hopeful time,” Dr. Strauss told Mayor Kristal Chopp and eight Norfolk County councillors who sit as the Board of Health.
Ontario is more or less ready to talk about the pandemic that was rather than the pandemic that is, he said.
“To be clear, COVID-19 will continue to be with us,” he said last Tuesday.
“Adherence to vaccination recommendations will remain an integral part of personal health protection.
“However, sudden, unexpected and massive waves of COVID-19 in an immunologically naive population are, I think, behind us.”
More than 90 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and older have received two doses of vaccine, the province reported on the weekend.
And the omicron wave has given millions of Ontarians natural immunity, Dr. Strauss told the Board of Health.
Two years ago the pandemic got off to a bad start in Haldimand-Norfolk, Dr. Strauss said.
Bad luck played a role, he said.
Dr. Strauss did not spell it out but 27 residents of a Hagersville retirement home died with COVID.
Since that time, especially in the last six months, Haldimand-Norfolk has performed as well as or better than neighbouring health districts.
The health unit reported its most recent COVID death on March 3, bringing Haldimand-Norfolk’s total to 69 deaths since the pandemic began locally in March 2020.
And 14 residents infected with COVID have died from other causes.
Over the last two years, Haldimand-Norfolk’s death rate from COVID has been 10 per cent below the provincial average.
That’s remarkable, given that the district has a higher percentage of elderly people, who are more vulnerable to the virus.
When age is taken into account, Haldimand-Norfolk’s death rate is 28 per cent lower than the provincial average.
“Part of what is so remarkable here, is that in many ways, when it comes to health outcomes, rural communities have the deck stacked against them,” Dr. Strauss said.
Haldimand-Norfolk has nearly five times fewer doctors per capita than the provincial average.
The district has more cigarette smoking, car crashes, teen pregnancy, obesity, mental health concerns, vaccine hesitancy and venereal disease is on the rise.
“Yet, as far as this pandemic is concerned, this community has outperformed,” Dr. Strauss said.
“There are resiliencies and strengths here that all those statistics evidently did not capture.”
Dr. Strauss said the health unit looks forward to shifting focus away from COVID to other public health programs like cleaning children’s teeth and sending nurses to help young mothers breastfeed.
“We will be designing new programs to improve the whole of the public health, not just the COVID-19 public health,” he said.