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Another “pivotal point in the pandemic” thanks to Omicron

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COVID-19 cases are rising locally and the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit says it’s presumed some are the Omicron variant. 

The rolling seven-day case rate for our Health Unit region is up by 113 percent since Nov. 30 and includes people testing positive in connection with Omicron outbreaks in other parts of the province.

“Though we can’t definitively say that yes it is in our district, given the prevalence in the province and the types of cases that we are managing, it is almost guaranteed that it is in the area,” says Dr. Carol Zimbalatti, Public Health Physician. 

“We are once again at a pivotal point in the pandemic,” says Dr. Jim Chirico, Medical Officer of Health.  “In a short time, Omicron has become the dominant variant of COVID-19 within Ontario and is expected to make up close to 100 percent of the cases by the end of December.” 

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He says Omicron is almost eight times more infectious than the Delta variant. 

“It’s expected the health care system will be in jeopardy with the increase in Omicron cases across the province, even if Omicron does prove to cause more mild disease than the Delta variant,” Dr Chirico says. 

He says making smart decisions can help decrease the spread; including being fully vaccinated, getting your third dose when you are eligible, limiting the number of people you gather with and staying home if you feel unwell. 

Dr. Chirico reiterated that provincially-mandated measures are more effective than locally-implemented measures when it comes to decreasing the rate of transmission. 

He says the province is making more announcements around public health restrictions on Friday and they’ll wait and see what they are, but will enhance them if they have to. 

“Yes, we are considering that, depending on what the government will be announcing,” Dr. Chirico says. “We may even have to look at all possibilities, especially Step 3 capacity limits as other northern Ontario Health Units have done in the recent past” 

The Health Unit also says 14,000 new vaccine appointments have been set up over the next two weeks, but they are filling up. 

Shannon Mantha, Executive Director of Clinical Services and Chief Nursing Officer, says they learned about third dose eligibility increasing on Monday to include residents 18 and older at about the same time as the public on Wednesday. 

“We are working furiously to add capacity to the system, we are working very broadly with healthcare partners across the district,” she says. “Public health is not the only channel to receive your vaccine, you can receive it at a pharmacy as well as primary care providers who are offering it.” 

Mantha says they’re working very hard to ensure everyone eligible for a third dose can get it, along with vaccines for the five to 11-year-old age group, and people looking for first and second doses of the vaccine. 

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