WELLINGTON COUNTY – COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) region have increased over the last week.
Provincial changes narrowing the eligibility for who can access publicly-funded testing to confirm COVID-19 cases have resulted in an underrepresentation of how many active cases there truly are in the province.
On March 3, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said it is estimated that actual COVID cases in the province are estimated to be 10 times the reported cases.
Hospitalizations are now being watched by the province as an indicator of health system impact.
Hospitalization data was last updated on March 20, when there were 15 hospitalized persons testing positive for the virus, up from 11 one week ago.
Of those hospitalized, two were admitted to an ICU in either Guelph or Orangeville, remaining unchanged from last week’s report.
According to seven-day moving averages reported by WDGPH as of March 20, acute care occupancy levels reached 83% and 81.5% in ICUs.
Vaccination statuses of those hospitalized locally are not disclosed, however, at the provincial level they are.
As of Tuesday morning, there are 168 unvaccinated persons hospitalized with COVID-19 across the province, of which 37 are in an ICU.
In contrast, there 423 two-dose vaccinated persons hospitalized across the province, of which 52 are in an ICU.
Considering the vast majority of Ontarians are vaccinated as of March 20 (86% with two doses according to the Ontario Science Table), there will be a larger representation of vaccinated persons in hospitals.
According to science table data, as of March 20, unvaccinated individuals are almost twice as likely to test positive for COVID-19, about five times more likely to be hospitalized with it and eight times more likely to end up in an ICU than those who are vaccinated.
Of the total persons hospitalized in the province, regardless of vaccination status, less than half have been admitted for COVID-related reasons and 54% have been admitted for other reasons and then tested positive for the virus.
COVID’s impact is more pronounced in ICUs, with 71% admitted because of COVID-19 and 29% admitted for other reasons.
As of March 22, there were 292 known active cases of COVID-19 in the region (up from 259 a week earlier) and 94 in Wellington County (up from 76).
There are 50 confirmed active cases in Dufferin County and 140 in Guelph.
(Active case totals above do not match the total active cases reported within the health unit because some cases haven’t yet been assigned to locations within the health region.)
On March 11, the province altered its definition of a COVID-related death, separating deaths into those incidental to, and those directly cause by, COVID-19.
WDGPH spokesperson Danny Williamson stated to the Advertiser in an email that the data team aligned the local definition of a COVID fatality with the province’s, excluding deaths “where a clear alternative cause that is unrelated to COVID-19 is identified.”
A total of five deaths previously attributed to the virus have been removed from the death toll, correcting the total to 158 deaths in the region (previously 163).
The previously reported death toll of 52 individuals specific to Wellington County remains unchanged and there have been no newly reported deaths since last week’s update.
Since March 15, another 531 people have become two-dose vaccinated in the WDGPH region, bringing the total as of March 22 to 257,802 or 87.4% of the population aged five or older.
There are 8,392 people aged five or older in the region who have received a first dose and 154,438 (57.2% of the eligible population at least 12 years old) who have received a third dose as of March 22.
In Wellington County 86% of eligible residents five and over are two-dose vaccinated and 58% of those at least 12 and over have received a third dose as of Tuesday.
Mapleton remains the only municipality in the county with a vaccination uptake of less than 70% of the eligible population. Of those who are vaccinated in the township, less than 40% are vaccinated with three doses. WDGPH does not publicly publish more specific data.
According to WDGPH data as of March 22, 85% of high school students within the health unit’s catchment area, and 52% of eligible elementary students are vaccinated with two doses.
According to the province’s Advisory Science Table data, as of March 21, there were 198 new cases every day per million people in those unvaccinated, and 117 cases per day in those with at least two doses.
The data concludes there’s a 41% reduction in the risk of contracting a case with two vaccine doses.
The reduction in the risk of being hospitalized with two doses is 81%.
Outbreaks in health care settings
There have been two outbreaks declared at retirement homes within the county since last week’s update.
A facility-wide outbreak at Highland Manor Retirement Lodge in Fergus was declared on March 19, with two residents and one staff member testing positive for the COVID.
Another facility-wide outbreak was declared on March 17 at Royal Terrace in Palmerston with 14 residents and one staff member testing positive. The retirement home had been declared out of outbreak five days earlier, on March 12.
At Guelph General Hospital, a new outbreak on the 4 East wing was declared on March 16 with eight patients and three staff members testing positive.
For public health officials to declare an outbreak over, 14 days must pass since the last symptomatic or positive individual is reported.