The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is confirming the presence of the first cases of COVID-19 variants of concern (VOCs) in the region. Public Health Ontario (PHO) screens all positive samples for the presence of a mutation and has informed the EOHU that four samples have screened positive and are awaiting specific genetic testing to identify the exact variant types.
Suspected variants have been detected in three staff at the St. Albert Cheese Cooperative in St. Albert, which is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. The fourth has been identified in a separate single case in the EOHU region. The EOHU is undertaking enhanced contact tracing protocols to identify the source of infection and any contacts for all four of these cases.
While the number of COVID-19 cases in Eastern Ontario has been levelling off, infections continue at area long-term care facilities. As of February 25, there were outbreaks at Maxville Manor, The Palace Long-Term Care in Alexandria, Glen Stor Dun Lodge, Chartwell McConnell, Riverview Manor, Cornwall, Iakhihsohtha Lodge in Akwesasne and Woodland Villa in Long Sault. The number of active cases was 102; three patients have been hospitalized; none is in intensive care, according to the Eastern Ontario Health Unit.
Have you noticed that your butter has been harder than usual? The change in consistency is probably related to feed supplements, named palm oil, used to boost cows’ diets. “Buttergate” has prompted the Dairy Farmers of Canada to set up a special committee to examine fat supplementation in cow feed. “Dairy farmers are uncompromising when it comes to quality and follow some of the most stringent standards in the world to uphold that commitment,” states DFC. From a feed perspective, the Animal Nutrition Association of Canada notes that the use of palm fat in dairy feed is not new and is a safe ingredient, approved for use by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Similarly, Daniel Lefebvre, the Chief Operating Officer from Lactanet, the Canadian dairy centre of excellence, stresses that the inclusion of palm fat supplements in the cow’s nutrition is not a health or safety concern.
For the second consecutive year, the Raisin River Canoe Race has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Raisin Region Conservation Authority notes that the event is one of the longest canoe races in Eastern Ontario. First started in 1973, the race runs from St. Andrews to Williamstown. The race is always held in April when water levels are high.
The event typically sees 350 paddlers every year cheered on by groups of spectators along the 30 km course. For everyone's safety and following the current COVID-19 public health measures in place, the difficult decision was made to cancel the event this year.
Outbreak at high school
A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Glengarry District High School in Alexandria where three individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 since February 11.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is working closely with the school and is actively communicating with students and staff who have been identified as possible close contacts through high-risk exposures.
The EOHU has determined that a school closure is not necessary at this time. The school will be open and operating on its regular schedule on Monday, Feb. 22.
The public is being warned about a scam where fraudsters pretend to represent the Canadian Revenue Agency.
Fortunately, in three reported cases, the intended victims did not lose any money after being contacted by a criminal purporting to to be a CRA employee, reports the Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry Ontario Provincial Police detachment.
The fraudsters tried different tactics. In one incident, the target was told his or her social insurance number had been compromised, another was warned if information was not provided, CRA would have the victim arrested. In a third instance the fraudster told the victim that the victim’s SIN card was used to commit several crimes and the victim had to pay CRA for the stolen funds.
If you have shared personal information or banking details with scammers, contact your financial institution immediately to place alerts on your account. If you have been defrauded, report it to the police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. For further information or to report a fraud online, visit: www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca
Meanwhile, the "romance scam" has cost a South Dundas resident $45,000 after the victim was targeted by a fraudster on an on-line dating site. The fraudster claimed that he needed to get a large sum of money via Bitcoin to assist him in getting a consignment box released by Puerto Rican custom authorities.
Seven people have been arrested after police seized over 5,000 cannabis plants while executing a search warrant at a location on Hay Road in South Glengarry Township. In addition to the cannabis plants, growing and processing equipment was seized. Arrested were Jialin Chen, 56, of Markham, Jun Jiang, 36, of Markham, Shuhua Xu, 51, of Scarborough, Tao Zou, 29, of Unionville, Zongxin Zou, 49, of Cornwall, Yun Lin, 52, of Cornwall, and Yuhua Lin, 51, of Unionville. Charged with a slew of drug-related offences, they are scheduled to appear in Alexandria court April 7.
The public is being asked to help investigators solve a suspected case of arson in Caselman February 6.
Shortly before 6 p.m., Russell County Ontario Provincial Police officers responded to a structural fire on St-Joseph Street.
A person was observed running away from the building when the incident occurred. There were no injuries.
Anyone with information regarding this fire, including suspicious vehicles or people seen in the area, should contact Russell County OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or 613-443-4499. Should you wish to remain anonymous, you may call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), or submit an online tip at www.crimestoppersquinte.ca, where you may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,000.
The Winchester branch of the SDG Library is to reopen today following a one-day closure after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
Sanitization and contact tracing procedures have been implemented according to Eastern Ontario Health Unit protocols.
“We are following guidelines prescribed to us by our own internal health and safety framework, as well as the protocols outlined by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit,” said Karen Franklin, director of library services. “At this time we are confident that this is an isolated case with an extremely low risk to the community at large.”
The Ontario government has loosened restrictions on many businesses while maintaining a shutdown in most of the province until February 16 as it strives to contain COVID-19. While it maintained most existing restrictions Monday, the government is enabling many retailers to reopen while limiting capacity to 25 per cent in most retail businesses.
There will be a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, stores that primarily sell groceries, convenience stores and pharmacies.
The Stay-at-Home order will continue to apply to most of the province 28 until February 16, when most areas, including the region served by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit is expected to return to the provincial COVID-19 response framework “and no longer be subject to the shutdown and stay-at-home orders.”
The government added, “These dates may change depending on the trends in local public health indicators.”
As local trends of key public health indicators improve, regions will be gradually transitioned back into this framework, with some new and modified measures in place.
Details were provided by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, and Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health.
“Our number one priority will always be protecting the health and safety of all individuals, families and workers across the province,” said Premier Ford. “But we must also consider the severe impact COVID-19 is having on our businesses. That's why we have been listening to business owners, and we are strengthening and adjusting the Framework to allow more businesses to safely reopen and get people back to work.”
Face covering and gathering limits requirements also remain in effect, however, the declaration of “emergency” will expire.
“While we have seen some progress in our fight against COVID-19, the situation in our hospitals remains precarious and the new variants pose a considerable threat to all of us,” said Minister Elliott. “As we cautiously and gradually transition out of the provincewide shutdown, we have developed an emergency brake system giving us the flexibility to contain community spread quickly in a specific region, providing an extra layer of protection.”
Recognizing the risk posed by new variants to the province's pandemic response, Ontario is introducing an “emergency brake” to allow for immediate action if a public health unit region experiences rapid acceleration in COVID-19 transmission or if its health care system risks becoming overwhelmed.
If this occurs, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in consultation with the local medical officer of health, may advise immediately moving a region into Grey-Lockdown to interrupt transmission. “While we are seeing our numbers trend in the right direction, our situation remains precarious as the variants of concern remain a serious risk,” said Dr. Williams. “This is not a re-opening or a 'return to normal' and we must continue to limit close contact to our immediate households and stay at home except for essential reasons. By continuing to follow all public health and workplace safety measures, we can continue to reduce the number of new cases and the strain on our health system.”
“While the declaration of emergency will be ending, the risks posed by COVID-19 and the new variants remain serious concerns,” said Solicitor General Jones. “That's why extending the stay-at-home orders for most of the province is necessary to protect our communities, our most vulnerable populations, and stop the spread of COVID-19. We continue to urge all Ontarians to follow public health guidelines and stay home, stay safe, and save lives.”
Municipalities and local medical officers of health may have additional restrictions or targeted requirements in their region. Provincewide shutdown measures went into effect December 26. The government declared its second provincial emergency on January 12, 2021 and issued a Stay-at-Home order to reduce mobility and address hospital capacity concerns.
Stormont Dundas & Glengarry Ontario Provincial Police officers are investigating the theft of two snowmobiles from Murray Motor Sports on Main Street in Alexandria on the night of February 3-4.
One of the 2020 Polaris Switchback Assault snowmobiles taken is grey and orange with Ontario plate 8AS686 and the other is red with plate 6AN989.
If you have any information about the theft call SD&G OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Seaway Valley Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477) or you can submit a TIP online at www.seawayvalleycrimestoppers.ca