COVID-19: Haldimand-Norfolk's top doc discusses concerns over vaccination lag, 'fifth wave'

Haldimand-Norfolk’s top doc says using the term “fifth wave” at a local board of health meeting to describe rising COVID-19 cases may have been “a bit sensational,” but doesn’t change the underlying message.

Acting medical officer of health Dr. Matt Strauss told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton that it could be characterized as the “second part” of the fourth wave, which didn’t actually hit that Southern Ontario health unit in the late summer.

“If you look at the local data in Haldimand-Norfolk, we sort of didn’t have a fourth wave,” said Strauss.

“So when cases were peaking in Hamilton a couple of months ago, our cases remained quite low, and that’s sort of what we’re seeing across the province in the places that are currently peaking. They’re places that gave the fourth wave a bit of a miss.”

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As of Friday, the two counties combined had a seven-day rolling case average of 12.71, a significant increase from the same day a month ago when the region only had 4.43 per day.

There were 109 active cases as of Nov. 19 — more than double what was seen two weeks ago — and five deaths in the past six weeks, including four unvaccinated individuals.

Strauss says not being vaccinated in a community with active cases is like riding a motorcycle without a helmet or going skydiving without one.

“I wouldn’t recommend either activity, they’re both risky, but I can’t stop you and I can’t protect you from what might happen if you make that choice,” said Strauss.

The health unit has seen a significant bump in its vaccination rate 12-plus since reportedly being last among the 34 public heath units in Ontario in the early summer.

As of Friday, the region’s rate was only slightly lower that the provincial average of 85.8 per cent fully vaccinated and 88.9 with at least one vaccine dose.

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Of concern for Strauss is a “lag” in vaccination rates among residents in their 40s, 50s and 60s where two-dose rates check in at about only 80 per cent.

Initiatives the health unit is working on heading into the new year to get rates up include more pop-up clinics at fire halls, the GOVAX bus driving around county and school clinics.

He says an effort also continues educating those who are hesitant through pamphlets and even offering his advice via phone.

“I have all the time in the world, frankly, to talk with those folks and discuss their particular concerns,” Strauss said.

“My office has got a lot of calls based on that offer, and I think I’ve managed to get a few more shots in arms that way.”

 

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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