Leadership with the Northwestern Health Unit says they’re disappointed to see additional COVID-19 cases continue to be reported each day in the area, and if Ontario’s stay-at-home orders were to end today, northwestern Ontario would still be under lockdown.

“Overall, case numbers and rates are gradually worsening over the past month,” explains Medical Officer of Health with the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, during a virtual conference with regional media members on May 4.

On the morning of May 4, the NWHU’s catchment area recorded its 71st straight day of new COVID-19 cases in the region. February 22 was the last day without cases announced for the area.

“This is disappointing for the entire region as we’re collectively under an emergency brake and stay-at-home order, a very-high level of restrictions. It is necessary for all of us to collectively follow public health measures and recommendations in order for case numbers to come down.”

Ontario’s current stay-at-home orders are set to expire on May 20. Afterwards, each region will transition back into the provincial COVID-19 response framework with certain safety restrictions pertaining to specific levels of risk within a region.

Young Hoon explains to be placed in the Red-Control level of the framework, a region must report a COVID-19 positivity rate of about 40 cases per 100,000 people per week.

Currently, the Northwestern Health Unit’s catchment area has a rate of 60 cases per 100,000 people, meaning the region would likely be placed into the Grey-Lockdown level of restrictions once again.

“In order for us to be able to have public health measures lifted and for schools to return to in-person learning, it is necessary for our case numbers to decrease. The increase in cases is being driven by individuals not following the rules,” Young Hoon adds.

“We [haven’t] been seeing the decline [in cases] that we should be seeing considering we’re now under the emergency brake. That’s concerning. If we don’t see that decline, I’m not sure if the province would be willing to lift public health restrictions. That’s problematic.”

As of May 4, the Northwestern Health Unit has reported a total of 960 cases of the virus, and 66 cases are listed as active. To date, the NWHU has reported a total of 65 COVID-19 related hospitalizations and 7 deaths across their catchment area.

As of May 4, the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority has reported a total of 178 cases and 6 deaths in on-reserve community members in their catchment area, and 16 of those cases are currently listed as active.

Provincially on May 4, Ontario reported a total of 2,791 cases – the lowest increase in daily cases since April 1 when 2,557 new cases were recorded. Overall, Ontario’s total amount of cases is listed at 476,692.

Everyone is asked to only leave their homes for essential reasons, and anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is asked to self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known.