A "Stay Safe" sign in Chatham-Kent, Ont., on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (Chris Campbell / CTV Windsor)

Chatham-Kent’s Medical Health Officer will not extend the closure of schools in his jurisdiction.

“We have a different situation and don’t need to unilaterally close schools.  If we were in the situation as Windsor-Essex, I would close schools,” said Dr. David Colby.

However, Colby said the number of cases continues to rise across the province and Chatham-Kent has not been immune.

Currently Chatham-Kent Public Health reports 842 positive COVID-19 cases following an added 26 cases from Wednesday.

Colby based his decision from his experience in the fall.

“We thought school transmission would play a larger role than it did,” he said.

The province will announce Thursday afternoon whether Ontario students will be able to return to the classroom.

Colby pointed out as many as 90 per cent of the recent cases were a result of exposure outside Chatham-Kent over the holidays and any benefit of a lower transmission rate from the lockdown will take two weeks.

Colby characterized the situation as awkward when Windsor and Essex County had tougher restrictions compared to Chatham-Kent leading up to Christmas as more people were coming from outside the municipality for services unavailable in neighbouring regions.

Meanwhile Colby remains confident Chatham-Kent will get the vaccine before the end of the month and seniors remain top of mind.

“We have teams in place and ready to go when we get the vaccine,” he said.

That statement is echoed by hospital officials.

“We hope to mount a response as soon as possible,” said Lori Marshall, President and CEO of Chatham-Kent Alliance.

Marshall added the hospital welcomed 12 patients from Erie Shores HealthCare last week and one from Windsor Regional Hospital on Wednesday.

None of the transferred patients have COVID, but the hospital is reporting there are three confirmed cases and one suspect case of COVID in its care.

Critical care beds are at 100 per cent occupancy, and CKHA has cancelled elective surgery to redeploy staff to the Intensive Care Unit.

Still, Marshall doesn’t see a reason at this point to open Chatham’s Field Hospital.

While the hospital has hired more than 200 workers since the crisis, the Field Hospital would require staffing meaning departments would have to postpone services.