Public health says much of Sudbury COVID spike related to holiday get-togethers
SUDBURY -- It's been a busy few weeks from first responders who have been dealing with complaints about large get-togethers as they look to make sure everyone was following public health measures over the holidays.
According to Public Health Sudbury and Districts, as of Friday, at least 84 per cent of cases confirmed since Dec. 29 reported having some sort of contact with family and friends, while 38 per cent reported either having travelled out of the area during that time or had contact with someone who did.
"Unsurprisingly, the north has not been spared from an increase in cases over the holidays. We do know that mental health is something that's important and maintaining connections with others," said public health program manager Nastassia McNair.
McNair said the health unit is now asking everyone to buckle back down and to follow the COVID-19 safety guidelines.
According to the Greater Sudbury Police Service, it responded to 21 complaints during December, 14 of which happened after Dec. 26 when the province was under a full lockdown.
There were only eight complaints that did not exceed the limits, there were eight warnings, one of which led to a planned party that was cancelled, and two incidents in which tickets were issued.
"You know, we've kind of been at this. We were in a lockdown for several months. We educated everybody because this is new territory for everyone, but now we're really saying to people 'if we find you in contravention of the regulations, you will be receiving a provincial offence notice,'" said Inspector Sara Cunningham, from Sudbury police.
Cunningham said police have been investigating COVID-19 safety violations with their partners at bylaw and public health since March. However, they can't respond to all of them, as they are also dealing with domestic disputes, assaults, and robberies. So officials are pleading with people to adhere to public health measures.
"You're being watched. If your neighbours are abiding by the rules, then they're going to expect you to abide by those rules. And if not, then they're going to contact us and bylaw," Cunningham said.
Tickets could cost those who decide to have get-togethers $750, plus a $130 surcharge, so she's hoping if everyone does their part, things will look better in 14 days.
Sudbury's bylaw department said it responded to 41 complaints during December in regards to gatherings, while 63 complaints were related to local businesses operating outside the guidelines.
So far, up to Friday, the bylaw department has received 13 complaints through 3-1-1 over gatherings and 10 related to businesses not following the lockdown rules. Officers have issued five tickets to businesses but none due to gatherings.
CTV News reached out to Mayor Brian Bigger for an interview to get his reaction to the figures and was issued a statement that read:
"Dr. Sutcliffe and (Police) Chief Pedersen are both leaders of independent organizations that oversee the enforcement of their particular jurisdictions and areas of responsibility. The city relies on both of these organizations to react and enforce by-laws accordingly. Overall, Greater Sudbury has been a community that has been following the laws and public health directives put in place. As Mayor, I rely (on) and expect laws to be taken seriously and enforced for the benefit and safety of every resident in Greater Sudbury."
"Any increase (in COVID-19 numbers) can overburden our public health system, so we are asking everyone to do their part," McNair said. "We have noticed as this pandemic has gone on, that many individuals are starting to tire out of the messaging, tire out of the behaviours. They want to see other individuals, we get it. I'm living it too, but we do ask that you try to be creative."
The news comes as Amberwood Suites Retirement Home is also dealing with a major COVID-19 outbreak itself, involving 22 confirmed cases of the disease.
The increase in infections has led to an increase in hospitalizations across the province.
Health Sciences North (HSN) currently has eight patients being treated for COVID-19, one of which is in the intensive care unit. It's the highest number the hospital's seen since the pandemic began.
The hospital's Chief Executive Officer, Dominic Giroux, has been a champion for the public health measures and is asking everyone in the region to continue being vigilant.
"We were expecting an increase after the holidays, but I think if you take a step back, the number of hospitalizations in the province exceeds 1,500 patients for COVID-19. That doubled in a month. We have 31,000 active cases in the province, that also doubled in a month. And we now have over 1,100 people who have died. So the situation is serious," Giroux said.
Giroux said Health Sciences North, like all Ontario hospitals, is now getting ready to take in additional patients from elsewhere should the need arise.
"There are fewer and fewer critical care beds available in southern Ontario, so what we can expect is to progressively see transfers of critical care patients from the Toronto area to eastern Ontario and perhaps over time to Simcoe, Muskoka and northeastern Ontario as well," he said.
HSN currently doesn't have plans for a field hospital but is already adding dozens of beds elsewhere in the facility, including in Daffodil Lodge.
"Our plea to the public is that we need to bring the case numbers down. Everyone needs to stay at home as much as possible and follow the advice of public health," Giroux said.
Since Christmas Eve, there have been 102 infections confirmed in the Sudbury and Manitoulin District and 38 cases have been recorded as resolved.
There were 67 active cases in the districts after seven new infections and six cases resolved on Monday afternoon.