Leadership with the Northwestern Health Unit is sounding the alarm about the spread of COVID-19 in the Kenora area, and is once again ‘strongly’ recommending that masks return in indoor spaces.

The Northwestern Health Unit held an impromptu media session on August 5 with regional media members, with an update from the region’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kit Young Hoon.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing an increase in COVID-19 activity in our region,” says Young Hoon. “In addition, wastewater data from the region show extreme increases over the past few weeks, and we’ve seen increased hospitalization rates since mid-July. The risk of COVID-19 is increasing locally.”

The NWHU’s data shows three active COVID-19 outbreaks in three separate hospitals in the region, the names of which were not specified, as well as an active outbreak in a local long-term care home and one outbreak classified as ‘other’.

In a separate media conference later that day, President and CEO of the Lake of the Woods District Hospital, Ray Racette, noted Kenora’s hospital is facing a ‘surge’ of COVID-19 currently, driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron – itself a variant of the original strain of COVID-19.

The Dryden Regional Health Centre announced they were facing an active COVID-19 outbreak on July 27. The other three outbreaks are currently unknown.

Overall, the NWHU is reporting a total of 103 active COVID-19 cases with data as recent as August 3. Reported cases include 66 on-reserve cases in the Sioux Lookout area, 12 in Kenora, 10 in Dryden, 8 in Fort Frances, 5 in off-reserve Sioux Lookout cases and 1 in each of Emo and Rainy River.

NWHU is now strongly recommending the return of masks in indoor public spaces where you cannot maintain physical distance from others, and is recommending residents gather outdoors, reducing the size of indoor gathers and to avoid large gatherings altogether.

Members of the public are reminded to adhere to self-isolation requirements when required.

“We’ve all heard about the pressures on our healthcare system right now. By doing our part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we will also help to reduce the pressure on our local healthcare services. The entire population has a role to play,” adds Young Hoon.

The NWHU encourages anyone who is eligible to be vaccinated to stay up to date with their vaccines. Anyone looking for a dose can visit their local pharmacy, health care provider or book into one of the NWHU’s clinics.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, the NWHU has reported a total of 34 COVID-19-related deaths in their catchment area.