GREY-BRUCE – A recent outbreak of COVID-19 at a Hanover rooming house is now over, but was a difficult situation, according to Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health (MOH).
He described efforts to control the outbreak to members of the board of health during the June 25 meeting.
Thanks to “optimal collaboration” with community partners, the outbreak was controlled, he said.
Arra noted the recent surge in cases of COVID-19 in Grey-Bruce involves a transient population – not just people in registered shelters, but those who are “couch surfing.” He said there’s evidence of the Delta variant – clusters of cases, short incubation period and high transmissibility.
Vaccines have been provided to all shelters.
The number of people vaccinated to date in Grey-Bruce stands at over 137,000, Arra said.
“This is consistent with the rest of the province,” he said.
Efforts are being made to ensure youth are fully vaccinated before school resumes in the fall, he said, making special note of the youth clinic scheduled for July 2 in Hanover.
The local health unit isn’t limiting its efforts to the Grey-Bruce area. Arra described to the board the key role local health unit personnel played in a recent “hockey hub” mass vaccination clinic in Peel, one of the province’s hot spots.
Board member Chris Peabody, mayor of Brockton, asked about the outbreak in the transient population.
“We’re now in the top five (highest number of cases per capita), tied with North Bay,” he said. “I’m concerned about the growth rate.”
Arra noted that although the Delta variant was first identified in Hanover during the outbreak there, the person was not a resident of the rooming house where the outbreak occurred, but a visitor.
He noted it’s definitely a concern when an outbreak involves people who are homeless and take drugs – it’s more difficult to isolate and trace contacts. And the Delta variant is a concern.
Peabody suggested the way the variant is spreading, maybe this are should be declared a hot spot and get more vaccine.
Arra responded by saying, “We have asked.” This area will be receiving an extra 25,000 doses of vaccine per week in July.
Board member Helen-Claire Tingling asked if homeless people are screened for COVID when the enter shelters.
Arra said a screening process is in place, which is how a number of cases have been identified. But many people don’t go to shelters; they “couch-surf.”
Later in the meeting, discussion centred on use of opioid drugs in Grey-Bruce.
Board member Brian O’Leary asked Arra for his thoughts on decriminalizing drug use.
Arra said public health supports decriminalization, which has helped in other countries. However, “it has to be part of a bigger picture,” he said.
The local health unit had prioritized the opioid crisis, and was taking action, but COVID-19 intervened.
“We will finish … when it is practical,” he said.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Tingling raised an issue involving delegations to board of health meetings.
“It’s not OK for people to use a delegation as a platform to come and insult staff,” she said, referring to a recent situation where “abusive language and insults” were used.
She asked that staff work on a policy regarding behaviour expected of delegations, and that the rules be posted.
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times