Niagara is heading into the next phase of the economic reopening of the Ontario pandemic with local COVID-19 numbers going in the wrong direction.
The number of active COVID-19 cases has doubled in the past 10 days, particularly in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls. Two new epidemics have been declared, including one triggered by a social gathering.
The global infection is increasing as more videos show people crammed into the tourist district of Niagara Falls without masks or physical distances.
“Everything wants things to open up, but they won’t stay open for long if people don’t engage in practices that will reduce the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Mustafa Hirji, interim Niagara medical officer of health.
“It really depends on all of us to create the kind of social practices that will keep everyone safe and an open economy.”
Local public health data provides a snapshot of the current state of the Niagara pandemic as it begins Stage 3 on Friday.
The percentage of positive cases: Almost since the start of the pandemic, the number of positive COVID-19 tests in Niagara has consistently been low compared to other parts of Ontario.
As of July 18, 0.7% of tests were positive for COVID-19. But this number is increasing. It was below 0.1% at the end of June.
Hirji said a figure of 10% is considered dangerous, but even at the height of this pandemic wave, Niagara has never been higher.
“The highest was five or six percent,” Hirji said. “Overall, the United States is around that 10% level, while in some southern states it is around 20%.
The Global Numbers: Niagara cases are on the rise, but still significantly lower than they were in April and May. Niagara still averages less than 10 cases per day.
Hospitalizations: Since July 15, no COVID-19 patients have been admitted to St. Catharines hospital. In the previous weeks, there were only three patients in the hospital.
New cases: For more than a month, the number of new cases was in the lower single digits, roughly equal to the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 on a daily basis. Over the past week, the number of new cases has risen to a higher figure, with 10 cases on Saturday and nine on Tuesday.
The number of active cases rose to 44 on Wednesday from 12 just 10 days ago.
Hirji said these are all signs of increased spread of the virus.
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New outbreaks: There are three in the long-term care homes in St. Catharines that lasted for several weeks. Public health on Wednesday declared two outbreaks unrelated to health facilities. Hirji said one of them is in a “congregational life” setting, although he does not specify which one. The other, he said, is the result of a “private social gathering” that has infected several people living in different municipalities in Niagara.
Hirji will not say where the event took place or say how many people are sick.
Crowds: The tourist district of Niagara Falls, as well as some Niagara beaches, have been the site of large crowds where physical distance and masks are scarce. Hirji said this behavior is similar to events in the United States that have contributed to the spread of the virus in recent months.
Masks: While two towns in Niagara, St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake, have passed a masking bylaw, and Fort Erie appears to be on the verge of doing the same, most of Niagara’s municipalities have not. such a regulation under consideration.
The Niagara region council is due to debate the issue for the second time on Thursday evening. Two weeks ago, a vote to postpone the decision on the mandatory mask resulted in a tie of 15-15, forcing Area President Jim Bradley to vote. He voted to postpone the matter.