MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. -- The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) is reporting 79 new COVID-19 cases, but no new deaths Tuesday.

Tuesday's total falls in line with Monday's count of 74 cases, both of which mark a significant decline from the previous three daily counts, which saw an average of just over 120 cases.

That average approached daily case counts seen during the peak of the second wave in early January, when the region saw its highest daily count for the entire pandemic at 148 cases.

The total number of cases in the region now stands at 7,699, with 883 active, 6,626 resolved and 190 deaths. There are nine confirmed B.1.1.7 variant cases and 414 have screened positive for a variant of concern.

MLHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie says the rising number of variants of concern is worrisome.

"That really signals a shift in what is happening in our community. The majority of the variants of concern are coming from the post-secondary age, the 18 to 22-year-old age group...what we're seeing in that age group who are testing positive for COVID is not front-line, essential workers...it's really social gatherings in the young adult population."

He adds that while it is a very small minority, enough of a subgroup are partying and gathering that there is rapid spread in that population.

As of Sunday, 93,031 COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered, and on Tuesday health officials announced they were expanding eligibility to all adults 65 years and older.

Meanwhile the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) says it is handling 10 staff and 25 inpatients positive for COVID-19, with 12 in intensive care (ICU).

Dr. Adam Dukelow, chief medical officer at LHSC, says seven of the ICU patients are from outside of London, transferred from the Toronto and Thunder Bay areas.

He added, "With climbing hospitalizations across the province we anticipate receiving more ICU and ward-level patients from other cities this week, as do some of our partner hospitals that surround London."

If more ICU beds need to be opened, Dukelow says they may need to decrease surgical activity.

There are outbreaks at three health care facilities, six Western University residences and five elementary and secondary schools.

New outbreaks were declared over the weekend at Northridge Public School and Holy Rosary Catholic School, which had already been closed due to a shortage of staff following several cases being reported.

Here are the most recently available numbers from other local public health authorities:

  • Elgin-Oxford – 13 new, 120 active, 2,911 total, 2,722 resolved, 69 deaths, 92 variants
  • Haldimand-Norfolk – one new, 106 active, 1,702 total, 1,552 resolved, 39 deaths
  • Huron-Perth – two new, 22 active, 1,438 total, 1,365 resolved, 51 deaths (one new), 19 variants
  • Grey-Bruce – six new, 68 active, 870 total, 798 resolved, four deaths, 58 variants
  • Sarnia-Lambton – one new, 160 active, 2,936 total, 2,725 resolved, 51 deaths (one new), 157 variants

Across Ontario, 3,065 new COVID-19 infections were reported Tuesday, with the number of intensive care patients surpassing 500 for the first time.