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New COVID-19 death reported as health unit prepares for vaccine rollout

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Troy Shantz

Sarnia-Lambton has recorded its first COVID-19-related death in more than six months.

The man, in his 70s, died Wednesday at Bluewater Health. He had received care for COVID-19, had stopped testing positive for the virus, but succumbed to underlying health conditions, Bluewater Health spokesperson Julia Oosterman told the Journal.

The hospital has not reported a COVID-19 patient since Saturday. But Lambton Public Health listed the man’s death as Sarnia-Lambton’s 26th fatality.

“We believe this was a death in a person who had COVID, but we’re not clear whether it was specifically a result of COVID,” Dr. Sudit Ranade, Lambton’s Medical Officer of Health, said this morning.

The health unit also reported six new cases today, bringing to 30 the number of new infections over the first 10 days of December.

The community now has 28 active cases, the highest level in six month. Sarnia-Lambton had 31 active cases on June 3 when the first wave was ending.

One workplace outbreak is underway at the Shell refinery in Corunna, where two workers tested positive last week.

Ranade said it’s important for workplaces to screen employees while creating an environment that allows people to stay home if they don’t feel well.

“COVID is still here, it’s still around, it’s still a very present feature of our community,” he said.

Now that Health Canada has approved the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Lambton Public Health will be central to rolling out shots once it arrives, Ranade said.

“We may need to up staff, we may need to connect with other organizations. It will be very much a team effort,” he said.

The first priority will likely be long-term care residents and those who work with them, with the vaccine administered at the senior homes, he said.

But priorities might need adjusting for vaccines that come with demanding storage requirements, he added.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for example, has a recommended storage temperature of -70 degree C.

“We try to bring vaccines to people… and if you can’t, you have to bring people to the vaccine,” he said.

“That’s really what’s going to guide the first group or batch of people to get the vaccine.”


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