Jan. 28 COVID-19 update: WC kids back in school Feb. 1, 81 new cases, ICU numbers ‘alarming’

Special to WC Online

WEST CARLETON – The first extended school lockdown of the 2020-2021 school year comes to an end this week.

West Carleton school children will be back in class Monday, Feb. 1.

The Government of Ontario is re-opening in-person learning within the Ottawa and Eastern Ontario health regions, starting next week.

They are two of four health units across the province which will see students get back on buses and into their regular classrooms. The Middlesex-London Health Unit and Southwestern Public Health are the two other regions included in the province’s announcement made earlier today (Jan. 28).

Minister of Education Stephen Lecce says tougher health and safety measures are expected to be in place at the schools within the permitted districts.

“The government agrees with the growing consensus in the medical community that returning students to in-person learning is essential to the wellbeing, development and mental health of children,” the minister said during a press conference. “According to leading medical and scientific experts, including Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, our province’s schools are safe places for learning.”

As more students and staff return to in-person learning, Lecce says the government is introducing stronger masking protocols to include Grades 1-to-3; expanding access to targeted asymptomatic testing; and implementing stricter screening protocols.

The provincial government says local public health units will continue to have the authority to close schools based on their unique circumstances, and parents may choose to permit their children to continue learning remotely.

Before and after school childcare programs in the permitted health regions will also be allowed to start back up on Feb. 1, while emergency childcare will end on Jan. 29. 

Here is the list of Ontario school boards expected to have students back in class, starting Feb. 1:

  • Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario
  • Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario
  • Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien
  • Conseil scolaire de district catholique du Centre-Est de l’Ontario
  • London District Catholic School Board
  • Ottawa Catholic District School Board
  • Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
  • Thames Valley District School Board
  • Upper Canada District School Board

In the health units where schools are continuing with remote learning, before and after school programs continue to be closed and emergency childcare remains available to support children of frontline workers.

Just over 80 new cases

OTTAWA – Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting 81 new cases of COVID-19 in the city but says there are no new outbreaks at local healthcare institutions, childcare centres or in the community.

There are 31 ongoing outbreaks at healthcare facilities, including long-term care and retirement homes, five outbreaks at childcare centres and four community outbreaks all linked to workplaces.

The number of active cases of novel coronavirus in Ottawa is down to 703 today, (Jan. 28).

OPH says there are 39 people in hospital with COVID-19 – six in intensive care.

With no new local deaths due to COVID-19, Ottawa’s pandemic death toll remains at 420.

To date, 13,153 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ottawa since March of 2020. Of those, 12,030 cases have been resolved.

There are still 914 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Ottawa which have yet to be administered. OPH says a total of 24,436 doses have been administered of the 25,350 doses the city has received. There’s yet to be word on when the city will be getting its next shipment of COVID-19 vaccines.

Ontario is reporting 2,093 new cases of COVID-19, Thursday, including 30 in Eastern Ontario, seven in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark, and none in Renfrew County.

COVID-19 impact on ICUs remains ‘alarming’

ONTARIO – The impact of COVID-19 on intensive care units (ICU) remains “alarming” despite a recent steadying of the number of patients treated there, says a group representing Ontario’s hospitals.

Anthony Dale, president of the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), said there are on average 25 new COVID-19 patients being admitted to ICUs every day.

“This apparent stabilization masks the fact that capacity is actually being freed up as patients either leave ICU as they get better, or pass away from COVID-19 or another very serious condition,” Dale said.

Over the last week, up to 416 patients with COVID-19 have been treated in ICUs, according to data provided by the OHA.

On Jan. 15, Ontario recorded an all-time high of 420 patients afflicted with COVID-19 in ICUs – about a quarter of all intensive care patients.

“The rate of transmission appears to be decelerating, but we cannot declare victory,” Dale said. “We must remain extremely cautious and keep up the fight against community spread to keep up our progress and prevent a third wave, especially when we see the new variant’s impacts in the United Kingdom.”

The province warned at the outset of the most recent lockdown that ICUs were on the verge of being overrun with COVID-19 patients, at which point physicians would be in the difficult position to choose who received critical care and who did not.

There were 595 patients transferred out of the worst-hit regions from November 2020 to January 2021, the association said. There were nearly 200 transfers planned for last week.

Many Toronto-area hospital ICUs are at or above capacity and have been transferring patients for months.

Ornge, the not-for-profit organization providing air ambulance and critical care transport services in Ontario, has taken the lead on transfers along with help from local paramedic services.

There have been 188 patients transferred by Ornge from ICUs to create capacity between Dec. 1, and Jan. 24. They are also transferring ICU patients between regions for the first time, sending some patients from Toronto as far as Kingston, ON.

Queensway-Carleton expanding off-site Fairfield unit

OTTAWA – To further increase capacity, the Queensway-Carleton Hospital (QCH) says it will be expanding its off-site Fairfield Inn and Suites unit.

According to an announcement by the hospital yesterday (Jan. 27), the hospital will open an additional floor on Jan. 28. The second floor is a way for the hospital to respond to the needs during Ottawa’s pandemic response.

It had already opened 28 beds at the Fairfield last April, and an additional 20 temporary beds inside the hospital.

QCH is currently running at 105 per cent capacity, and by adding these additional beds, patients will have access to inpatient beds and limit the need for them to spend more time in the emergency department, the hospital says.

“Expanding bed capacity at Fairfield allows our main site to maintain acute care services,” QCH chief of Geriatrics Dr. Robert Nichols said. “We have specific criteria to ensure patient care needs can be to meet at Fairfield, with a focus on limiting their exposure to COVID patients, keeping them safe and cared for.”

The expansion is also expected to reduce the number of surgeries that may require cancellation because of lack of inpatient beds.

The hospital says the off-sit unit is design or “alternate level of care” patients — those whose acute care needs have been met, but who cannot return home for any reason.

Fairfield has had zero patients test positive (a 0% infection rate) for COVID-19 since opening last April,” Fairfield site manager Kim Schrader said.

On average, most patients who are admitted to Fairfield stayed for about 94 days.

Four patients who were admitted during the first two days of the unit opening are still receiving care there, over 250 days later. Since the unit opened, it has provided care to more than 20 patients, totalling 5,666 patient days.

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