Lambton Shores, Warwick and Plympton-Wyoming have the highest rate per capita of COVID in the county

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The communities in Lambton Shores, Warwick and some of Plympton-Wyoming have generated more COVID-19 cases per capita than other parts of Lambton County

Statistics from Lambton Public Health show rural Lambton is dealing with more COVID-19 cases per capita than most of Sarnia.

Throughout the pandemic, heavily populated urban areas are seeing more COVID-19 cases than rural areas. But in the last month in Lambton, that has changed.

Public health started logging where COVID-19 cases were occurring at the direction of Lambton county council in October.

Officials look at data in five areas each containing around 25,000. There are three urban areas in Sarnia and Point Edward and two rural areas, one encompassing Lambton Shores, Warwick and some of Plympton-Wyoming and the other containing municipalities south of Churchill Line including Petrolia, Enniskillen, St. Clair Township, Oil Springs, Dawn-Euphemia and Brooke-Alvinston.

Since the mapping began, the majority of the cases have been in urban areas. But for the past couple of weeks, rural Lambton – particularly in Lambton Shores and Warwick – has seen as much or more illness from COVID-19 than urban areas.

The area of Lambton Shores, Warwick and parts of Plympton-Wyoming had the highest number of cases per 100,000 in the last 30 days with 588 per 100,000. That’s about 26 per cent of the cases in Lambton in about 20 per cent of the population.

Petrolia/St.Clair Township and Central Lambton municipalities with 456 cases per 100,000 in the last 30 days. That was just a handful of cases less than southend Sarnia.

The north end of the city and Point Edward logged 340 and 392 cases per 100,000 in the last month.

There have been several major outbreaks in Lambton Shores and Warwick. Kettle and Stony Point dealt with its first major outbreak of the virus in February with 39 people testing positive at point. There were several schools which had significant numbers of students testing positive for COVID-19 including North Lambton Secondary School in Forest, which at one point had 18 COVID-19 positive students. The Catholic Elementary School in Watford also had a large number of student cases. In nearby Brooke-Alvinston, the elementary school was closed for two weeks after a COVID-19 variant was found. Brooke Central students have just returned back to class from online learning today.

Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Sudit Ranade, says people in rural areas have one advantage in the fight against COVID-19; space. Urban areas, particularly in poorer neighbourhoods, often seen more transmission of the virus because people live close together. People living in rural area often have more space and they can easily remain distant from other who might carry the virus..

But he says rural areas also have strong traditions of getting together and that is causing problems.

“This virus takes advantage of who we are as human beings and what we need from our lives in order to transmit itself among us. One of the things we need from our lives is social interaction,” says Ranade.

“After a year of people doing the best that they can, some people are saying, ‘oh, I’ve been socialized a little bit,’ or some people never stopped. So, it’s still the same activity or behavior that causes transmission.

“Once we opened things up, people started going back into their recreational sports or into their other activities, and it just creates these venues where the virus can transmit.”

And he says the mapping system created by public health may give a false impression. Ranade says people in rural areas may see the increasing number of COVID cases around them and even if they visiting, they’re not getting sick. So, they continue visiting.

“The problem is, by the time we update the map, right, it’s cases, they’re two weeks out from where the actual transmission was. So you can’t rely on the map, or the idea that because cases are low things are safer in order to avoid getting COVID.”