As COVID-19 cases continued to spike in the Woodstock and St. Thomas region, the area’s top doctor says the looming provincewide lockdown is the best way of slowing the spread of the deadly virus.
“We had hoped not to see a shutdown,” Joyce Lock, the medical officer of health for Southwestern public health, said. “This has many implications for individuals, businesses and services.
“However, this virus is raging within our communities. This is the best tool we have to keep distance between people and stop the spread.”
The health unit reported another 26 cases in the region, bumping the active total for the Woodstock and St. Thomas area to 160. The increase also marked the 14th straight day of double-digit increases in the Southwestern region, which is also suffering a spate of outbreaks in retirement and nursing homes.
With the worrying surge of cases in this region and across the province potentially putting more patients in Ontario hospital beds, Lock said the lockdown was a necessary precaution.
“If we don’t take this step, we not only risk more people becoming very, very sick, but we will also overwhelm the health-care system,” she said.
On Monday, Premier Doug Ford announced the whole province would be locked down at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 26. The shutdown will last 28 days in southern Ontario.
The new measures — the most stringent since the spring lockdown — will ban in-person shopping in most retail stores, shutter gyms and recreation facilities and force restaurants to offer takeout or delivery only.
The lockdown also prohibits indoor social gatherings, except with members of the same household, and caps outdoor gatherings at 10 people.
Public health reported that seven of the new cases were in Aylmer, which has remained a COVID hot spot in the region. Six cases were confirmed in East Zorra-Tavistock, five in Tillsonburg, two in Norwich Township and Blandford-Blenheim, and one in each of Woodstock, St. Thomas, Central Elgin and Southwold.
Southwestern public health also confirmed 24 recoveries in the region.
The seven outbreaks in the region’s long-term care and retirement homes now involve a total of 21 resident and 10 staff cases, public health reported. There are now 10 resident and two staff infections at both PeopleCare Tavistock and the Maple Manor nursing home in Tillsonburg.
Elgin Manor, a long-term care home in St. Thomas, had a confirmed resident case as of Monday.
With the newest numbers, there have been 961 cumulative confirmed cases in the health authority’s region since the pandemic was declared. Of those, 790 have been resolved while 11 people have died.
The province reported 2,202 new cases, 1,900 recoveries and 21 COVID-related deaths in its Tuesday update. There were also 1,005 hospitalizations in Ontario as of Tuesday — an increase of 90 from the previous day — with 273 patients in intensive care.