EOHU will stop COVID-19 case count reporting

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, medical officer of health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, addresses reporters on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. With the wild spread of Omicron, Roumeliotis says the health unit will stop reporting case counts and will focus on outbreaks and hospitalization data to gauge public health measures. (EOHU/YouTube via Newswatch Group)

CORNWALL – With the rampant surge of the Omicron variant and testing curtailed, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit will cease reporting new and active cases in the region heading into 2022.

During a news conference Friday (Dec. 31), Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis says the health unit will instead use outbreaks in high-risk areas to gauge public health measures for the rest of the community.

“We’re going to stop our daily case counts. We’re going to focus on outbreaks and vulnerable high-risk settings. That’s going to be the gauge with which we will decide whether or not we remove or add restrictions to the current ones that we have,” he said.

With both lab-confirmed (PCR) and rapid antigen testing now exclusive to high-risk people and workers in high-risk settings, the daily case counts will not be an accurate reflection of the scope of community spread, presumed to be far greater than the numbers show right now.

The health unit will “continue to monitor” ICU admissions and hospitalizations in order to adjust any public health restrictions.

The EOHU will also stop case reporting and contact tracing for cases in schools.

As of Dec. 31, the EOHU area was reported to have a total of 8,232 cases of which 1,588 are active. There are six people in hospital and one in the ICU, which Roumeliotis believes to be an unvaccinated member of the community.

Roumeliotis rehashed much of the information on new testing measures, restrictions and isolation protocols announced Thursday afternoon by Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore. You can find those in this morning’s Newswatch COVID-19 Digest here.

Looking ahead to next year, Roumeliotis believes the region and the province are transitioning from a pandemic to an endemic situation.

“The endemic situation being where are living with it (COVID-19). It’s not really affecting tremendously our health care system, our critical workers. We’ve had enough infections and vaccinations to protect us at a sort of community wide, herd immunity wide level. I think we are actually witnessing this transition,” he said.

Over 90 per cent of people over the age of 12 are vaccinated in the EOHU region.

Roumeliotis guesses the endemic situation will happen by March but “the next three to four weeks will be crucial.”