Catching COVID-19 may be inevitable, says Colby

COVID-19 has now taken the life of 20 people in Chatham-Kent since the new year.

By Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative The Ridgetown Independent News

COVID-19 has now taken the life of 20 people in Chatham-Kent since the new year.

Chatham-Kent Public Health Spokesperson Caress Lee Carpenter said a man in his 70s died at the Chatham hospital. The latest death is the 47th COVID-19 fatality in the municipality and the 20th during this month. This means approximately 43 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in Chatham-Kent have been reported in January.

According to Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Colby, it’s a statistic which, unfortunately, isn’t surprising, but health officials are doing what they can to protect the community.

“I think being vaccinated to prevent severe outcomes of COVID is the key feature here. Omicron is very, very contagious; this is what’s driving our numbers so high right now. I think the probability that people will get infected with time is extremely high,” said Colby.

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The health unit also reported another COVID-19 outbreak at an unidentified group home. The latest outbreak has 23 cases. The number of outbreaks dropped to 11 after outbreaks at Hudson Manor Retirement Home in Tilbury and Wallaceburg Retirement Residence were declared over on Jan. 26.

However, the largest outbreaks are in long-term care facilities and retirement homes.

As of Jan. 28, Village on the Ridge Retirement Residence in Ridgetown has 32 cases, and Park Street Place Retirement Home in Dresden has 30 cases.

On Jan. 26, a woman in her 90s and a man in his 90s both died in unidentified long-term care homes in Chatham-Kent that are under an outbreak.

Colby said despite strict screening protocols, these deaths are inevitable as not all seniors in long-term care facilities and retirement homes are vaccinated.

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He said aggressive case and contact management continues, along with staff screening and vaccination protocols.

“When you look at the number of cases that we have in long term care, there are 11 outbreaks. Two of them are very large; the number of deaths is actually small compared to other outbreaks that we have of comparative size since the pandemic started, so it’s really a question of proportion,” added Colby.

The region’s top doctor added they are dealing with a large number of infected people who are of advanced age.

“Of course, there’s going to be mortality in this area,” said Colby. “The number of [recent long-term care] deaths is actually small compared to other outbreaks that we had of comparative size since the pandemic started. So, it’s really a question of proportion.”

He also said there’s no denying Omicron is very contagious, and a high percentage of the population will eventually get COVID-19.

 “The probability that people will get infected with time is extremely high. In terms of avoiding infection, that’s going to be very, very hard,” said Colby.

Colby says health officials have shifted from trying to prevent infection to more of a harm reduction strategy and dealing with outbreaks when they can, rather than trying to prevent infection.

As of Jan. 28, thirty-two patients are in hospital with COVID-19, including 13 being treated primarily for COVID-19, the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance reported.

There are six patients in the intensive care unit and one in the progressive care unit with confirmed COVID-19. Five of the six patients in the ICU are being treated primarily for COVID-19.

The average age of patients with COVID-19 in the hospital is 65. The youngest is 19, and the oldest is 92.

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