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A year of tragedy: Londoners remember 185 lives lost to COVID-19 | CBC News

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Saturday marks one year since the first reported COVID-related death in Middlesex-London.

A 74-year-old man who had returned from a trip to Portugal tested positive for coronavirus on March 19, 2020. He died in hospital eight days later. Since his passing, another 184 people succumbed to the virus.

To mark the sombre anniversary, Mayor Ed Holder is inviting Londoners to turn on a porch light or place a light in a window as an act of remembrance for those who have died.

“I believe it’s deeply important to pay our respects – as a community – to all those who have passed away due to COVID-19, while honouring their memories,” said Holder.

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“Sadly, due to necessary restrictions, a number of those individuals died surrounded only by a select few family members, while celebrations of life were postponed or extremely limited … Those 185 local families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19, we want them to know we mourn with them, and we have not forgotten them.”

Holder says the flag outside London City Hall will also be lowered to half-mast on Saturday. Tributes can be shared across social media using #LdnOntRemembers.

Death toll hit hardest among elderly

COVID-19 proved to be most deadly for patients who were in their later years of life. In fact, nearly one in three people over the age of 80 who contracted the disease died.

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In total, 114 people 80 and older died with COVID-19 in the region, including 67 people in their 80s, 44 people in their 90s and three people over 100, according to data from the Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU).

There were 106 deaths associated with seniors’ facilities in the region, including 92 at long-term care homes and 14 at retirement residences.

What’s astounding is people in their 30s and under, who made up the majority of positive COVID-19 cases, only saw three deaths.

There hasn’t been a new death reported in Middlesex-London since March 8, with the largest contributing factor being the vaccination of seniors over 75 and health care workers.

Deaths slow as vaccination efforts continue

Anne Doherty, an essential caregiver for her elderly parents in long-term care, gets a shot of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine from public health nurse Hannah Currie on Feb. 18, 2021. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

As of Monday, there were 64,783 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine administered across Middlesex-London. During the first phase of the vaccine roll out, residents and staff from long-term care were inoculated, along with people over 80.

“Fortunately, deaths remain low. That’s a huge testament to the vaccine campaign,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, the Medical Officer of Health for the MLHU. “We are vaccinating the elderly, the people who care for them and residents of long-term care and retirement homes where we know the vast majority of deaths have occurred.”

London Morning7:32How the death toll in London is impacting the city’s morgue capacity

O’Neil Funeral Home director Joe O’Neil tells London Morning how the morgue is coping with the pandemic death toll in London and shares his personal experience. 7:32

Dr. Mackie reiterated the number one goal of the pandemic is to prevent deaths.

“The vaccine is achieving that,” he said. “We need to back the vaccine up as well by curbing our behaviours and avoiding those indoor, unprotected, unmasked contacts.”

Everyone is being encouraged to continue practicing health measures, including physical distancing, mask wearing, frequent hand washing and sticking to your bubble as much as possible.

Vaccination bookings are currently open to people 75 years of age and older. To book an appointment, visit covidvaccinelm.ca or call 226-289-3560 from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily.

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