Our community experienced three “waves” of COVID-19 in 2021 from the Alpha, Delta, and Omicron variants, which caused unprecedented disruptions for residents, schools, businesses, health services, and workplaces in Windsor and Essex County. With each wave of the pandemic, Windsor-Essex experienced some of the highest case rates and positivity rates in the province. These waves collectively accounted for 17,605 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the death of 351 people over the year.
Over the course of 2021 the WECHU continued a robust pandemic response for COVID-19 at the local level ensuring necessary public health measures were implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19. Such measures included case and contact management, outbreak management, enforcement, education and other supports for agencies, workplaces, schools, municipalities and the broader community.
Case and contact management continued to be one of the WECHU’s core activities during the 2021 pandemic response. The WECHU’s Case and Contact Management Team completed case investigations on more than 17,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and followed up with 33,720 close contacts in 2021. Case and Contact tracers worked closely with individuals to assess their symptoms and provide important instructions for self-isolation and self-monitoring, to ensure individuals’ health and well-being and prevent broader community spread of COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex.
In addition to case and contact management, the WECHU declared and managed456 outbreaks among local workplaces, schools, childcare centres, long-term care homes, retirement homes, congregate living settings, and hospitals.
In 2021, the WECHU assumed the lead role for the regional infection prevention and control (IPAC) hub for Windsor and Essex County in collaboration with hospital partners. Through the IPAC and Environmental Health Team, the WECHU conducted inspections and provided guidance for high-risk congregate living settings and helped manage outbreaks. The Environmental Health department also built capacity within highest-risk settings by managing over 580 outbreak and case cluster declarations and conducting 630 on-site investigations. In addition Public Health Inspectors conducted approximately 3,000 housing inspections related to outbreak response, isolation and routine housing related to the International Agricultural Worker Program.
Education sessions and training were also provided for the highest-risk settings including long-term care homes, retirement homes, correctional facilities, day camps, and childcare facilities. Businesses and workplaces were provided infection prevention and control guidance documents, toolkits, fact sheets and checklists to support their ongoing health and safety plans.
Impact of COVID-19 in the Community
- 17,605 confirmed cases of COVID-19
- 33,720 close (high-risk) contacts identified
- 351 deaths reported due to COVID-19 in 2021
- 456 outbreaks in the community across local workplaces, schools, childcare centres, Long-Term Care Homes, Retirement Homes, congregate living settings and hospitals
- 1,112 school dismissals
The Healthy Schools department worked alongside other internal departments and community partners to support the safe operation of schools across Windsor and Essex County. In conjunction with the Environmental Health department, the Safe Return to School Toolkit, available in French and English, was created and continually updated to reflect current practices for limiting the spread of COVID-19 in schools. In the case of a school cohort dismissal or closure, the school received a visit from the WECHU staff to provide critical guidance and answer questions. Often, this was completed by a Public Health School Nurse, with support from a Public Health Inspector, as necessary.
To address specific concerns raised by our local school boards during the pandemic, a Bullying Awareness Toolkit was created in both English and French. Additionally, a series of mental health resources were created for schools and families to integrate as a method to support student’s mental and physical well-being.
The WECHU staff also hosted a variety of webinars in collaboration with community partners. Two webinars focused on case and contact management within schools, targeting our newcomer population, educators, and school administrators. These webinars included presentations by Health Promotion Specialists, Registered Nurses, and Public Health Inspectors. The WECHU hosted an additional webinar featuring a panel of local healthcare providers, where information about the safety of COVID-19 vaccinations in children was provided . All webinars included a question and answer segment, which allowed service providers and community members to have their questions or concerns answered by the panel of subject matter experts. All webinars were made available online for individuals who were unable to attend the live session.
Community Safety & Enforcement
The WECHU responded to over 4,200 education requests and complaints from a variety of sectors in 2021, which lead to the issuing of 174 tickets. The majority of tickets were related to the province’s Reopening Ontario Act and Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Taking a progressive enforcement approach, WECHU’s Public Health Inspectors and Tobacco and Vaping Enforcement Officers visited facilities to provide education, and conduct audits and inspections to ensure compliance with the regulations. The WECHU also shared timely information about local and provincial restrictions by developing and issuing memos, toolkits, checklists, letters, and webpages.
Furthermore, the WECHU chaired and co-ordinated enforcement activities in our region by hosting regular regional enforcement meetings to ensure consistency and efficiency of our joint efforts The WECHU was also part of several provincial multi-ministry team enforcement blitzes throughout the year, to ensure regional compliance with public health and workplace safety measures.
Enforcement & Community Safety
- Responded to 4,200 complaints and education requests related to provincial and local orders
- 71 Notices of Violations (NOVs) issued
- 174 Provincial Offence Notices (PONs) issued
Throughout 2021, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit’s Communication department strived to provide accurate, timely, and reliable COVID-19 information from the international, federal, provincial, and local level to residents, workplaces, and businesses.
Several new media channels were established or expanded, including a COVID-19 General Call Centre, designated COVID-19 website section, regular media briefings, social media platforms, email campaigns, and other forms of media engagement. These various platforms allowed for the swift dissemination of COVID-19 information to the appropriate stakeholders as well as the community-at-large.
Through daily communications and reports, the WECHU continued to share vital information, including statistics, vaccination, outbreaks, school cohort dismissals, testing and isolation requirements, public health restrictions, and the overall local pandemic response.
10,889 stories that mentioned the WECHU
646 Media Requests
509 Media Notifications Issued
112 appearances on AM800 Radio’s Morning Drive
COVID-19 General Call Centre
Responded to 20,848 inquiries from calls, emails, and web form submissions
1200+ hours spent addressing inquiries
7,718,757 website visits
15,327,308 page views on website
2,516,521 unique website visitors
Social Media & Email Platforms
- New Subscribers: 687
- New Videos: 254
- Views: 228,342
- New Followers: 2,307
- New Posts: 1,758
- New Engagements: 56,170
- New Followers: 2,679
- New Posts: 1,627
- New Engagements: 12,136
- New Followers: 545
- New Posts: 214
- New Engagements: 2,356
- New Followers: 316
- New Posts: 950
- New Engagements: 368
Email to Subscribers
- New Subscribers: 6,506
- Emails Sent - 531
- Average Open Rate: 61.9%
- Average Click Rate: 4.2%