The Omicron COVID-19 variant is prompting the provincial government to re-enact capacity restrictions and the North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit is once again asking individuals to do their part in slowing the spread.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jim Chirico acknowledged that people are sick of the pandemic as we close in on two years of COVID cases in Canada. But with Ontario’s science advisory table projecting the Omicron variant will make up close to 100 per cent of cases by the end of December, he’s asking for people to limit their contacts over the holiday.
“The COVID-19 situation is changing at an alarming rate,” said Chirico during a Dec. 16 media availability. “Urgent action is needed now. I recognize we are all tired and frustrated and we just want COVID to disappear, but unfortunately that’s not a reality. We are once again at a pivotal point of the pandemic and experiencing a rapidly changing situation and our efforts must continue.”
Public Health Ontario says the highly infectious variant reached an estimated 7.7 times more individuals than Delta during the Nov. 28 to Dec. 9 period. Though there haven’t been any confirmed Omicron cases locally, several positive cases are in connection to outbreaks in other regions of the province where the variant is rampant.
“Though we can’t definitively say that, yes, it is in our district, given the prevalence in the province and the types of cases we are managing, it’s almost guaranteed that it is in the area,” says Dr. Carol Zimbalatti.
The province had 3,784 new cases on Monday, the same day the Ontario government expanded vaccine booster eligibility to anyone 18 years or older who is 84 days removed from their second shot. The expanded eligibility, which was first announced on Dec. 15, caught the local Health Unit off guard.
“We learned about it almost at the same time that the public did,” said Dr. Shannon Mantha. “We had already ramped up, adding 14,000 appointments to ensure that we had enough access to vaccine appointments across the district and we weren’t anticipating the 18+ announcement until shortly after the new year. So, with the added eligibility groups, we are working furiously to add capacity to the system. We’re working very broadly with health care partners across the district, primary care, acute care as well as pharmacies, because public health is not the only channel to receive your vaccine.”
As a result of the increased eligibility, the Health Unit is no longer offering walk-ins at their vaccine clinics, to ensure physical distancing is able to be maintained at clinics. People can book appointments through a participating pharmacy, online at Ontario.ca/BookVaccine, or by calling the Health Unit Call Centre at 1-844-478-1400 or 705-995-3810.
The next available public clinic in West Nipissing is Jan. 5, 2022, at the Marcel Noel Hall from 2 to 7 p.m.