COVID-19 cases in Grey-Bruce appear to be headed back to 'baseline'

·3 min read

The region’s top doc says last week’s surge in COVID-19 cases were caused by the highly transmissible variants of concern (VOC) and due to fatigue around personal COVID safety protocols.

Last week, Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU) declared a community outbreak in eastern Grey County after a spike of COVID cases in Meaford and The Blue Mountains.

The health unit stated that 21 confirmed cases plus "a significant number" of probable cases and high-risk contacts were related to the community outbreak.

The surge saw 70 new cases in just 36 hours, which promoted Arra to call on all residents to isolate for 48-hours.

“The confidence I have in our community, based on experience from the past year, allowed me to say, I'm going to raise the flag that we had 70 cases in two days and I knew the response would be favourable,” Arra said. “The municipalities and businesses went over and beyond to actually close. The public responded and we caught up with the contact tracing.”

In order to manage the nearly 700 high-risk contacts associated with the surge, GBHU redeployed staff from its vaccine delivery program to case management.

“We pulled staff from the vaccine program. There were a number of clinics, 11 of them in shelters, all of those were honoured and preserved as we need to get the vaccine to this vulnerable population,” he explained.

One large-scale vaccine clinic that had been scheduled was cancelled due to the redeployment. However, according to Arra, no one had been booked for the clinic prior to it being cancelled.

He explained that the clinic had been earmarked for individuals working within the school setting.

“That clinic was strategically designed to be completed during the April [school] break. At the time, when we planned it two weeks ago, schools were going to be open. Now we know that schools are closed. So, deferring that clinic to this week would not increase the risk for the teachers, but it did allow us to take the 1,000 doses and give them to 31 more shelters and community living facilities,” Arra said.

The source of transmission in last week's outbreak was a social gathering, something Arra said has been a common cause for local cases throughout the pandemic.

“Most of the cases we've seen are related to social settings – family, friends, people who are lowering their guard, having a party, having a visit with family and friends. Regulated settings whether it's businesses, workplace, long term care, schools, they have been safer than our homes,” he said.

The outbreak was traced back to a group of youth who had held a party.

“The chain of events that led to this surge did not start with them, they were part of that channel,” he said. “I do believe these individuals transmitted the disease innocently and had they known that there was a risk for somebody else and they are part of a chain, they would have changed their behaviour.”

Following the outbreak, Arra also issued a class order that includes fines for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and do not follow public health directives.

GBHU has seen a total of 1,100 confirmed COVID-19 cases and there are currently 143 active cases in Grey and Bruce counties combined.

"If we clear this week with a small surge and case counts go back to baseline, anything under 10 [cases per day], I would feel confident that we have managed a third wave and the roll-out of vaccine will put the last nail in the coffin of this pandemic, hopefully this summer, before the fall," Arra said.

Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,