Niagara nears 3,000 active COVID-19 cases

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There are now nearly 3,000 active cases of COVID-19 in Niagara, after it was reported Thursday another 166 residents have been diagnosed with the virus.

Niagara Region Public Health reported 2,989 active cases of the virus, up from 2,836 a day earlier.

Although the average daily cases week-over-week continues to slowly decrease, new cases being reported still exceed the number of newly resolved cases.

Public health also provided updated data on the more dangerous and easily spread variant cases of concern in the region, which now account for 63.9 per cent of cases.

Most of the cases, 1,765, involve the U.K. variant B.1.1.7, while one case has been identified as the P.1 variant strain that originated in Brazil.

Niagara health-care workers administered 3,721 doses of vaccine Wednesday, for a total of 175,291 doses since vaccine distribution began.

So far, 34 per cent of Niagara residents have received their first injection of vaccine, while 2.6 per cent have been given both doses.

Residents eligible for vaccines, including people 45 and older in the provincially designated hot spot neighbourhood in Niagara Falls with the L2G postal code, can schedule appointments at Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or by calling 1-833-943-3900, while people 40 and older can add their names to waiting lists for vaccine at participating pharmacies.

Meanwhile, Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber of Commerce welcomed the province’s announcement of a new paid sick day program, to help reduce the spread of the virus.

GNCC chief executive officer Mishka Balsom and Rocco Rossi, CEO of the provincial organization, released a joint statement on the provincial government’s plan to top up the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, calling it a step in the right direction to protect essential workers.

“Ontario is the only province that has committed to a paid sick day program during the pandemic,” the statement said.

“The proposed provincial top-up to the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is also encouraging but is contingent on federal government participation and does not address other shortcomings of the federal program, such as processing delays. We would like to see all levels of governments open to further adjustments of their programs — as they have been with other programs rolled out in the pandemic — to ensure programs meets the needs of workers and the market in Niagara.”