BRUCE COUNTY – In his update to Bruce County council on May 6, Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health (MOH) for Grey-Bruce, said local COVID-19 numbers “have declined to less than five per day, as we predicted in March.”
He described the local situation as “under control,” noting half the new cases have been close contacts who were isolating. And all have been providing contact information in detail. The number of close contacts has also been declining.
Arra noted that the number of cases throughout Ontario has been going down, although not as quickly.
The vaccine rollout has resulted in 40 per cent of people receiving their shot. This area matched the provincial average until last week, when high-risk areas were targeted with more vaccine.
One sign that Arra finds favourable is the province has been asking if “we are ready to open schools in two weeks.” The answer, he said, is, “We are ready.” This is in a large part due to the fact school workers have been vaccinated over the past three weeks.
County Coun. Chris Peabody, mayor of Brockton, said it was “good work for the health unit to have put teachers on the list … parents are getting frazzled with home schooling.”
Peabody noted that on April 18, this area had one of the highest COVID-19 rates in the province, and now “we’re one of the lowest.”
Arra was asked if the World Health Organization’s changing views of whether the virus is airborne will lead to changes in health guidelines.
Arra’s answer was there have been no changes in directives from the province. He further noted that the people doing testing at the area’s assessment centres were protected for “droplet, not air transmission.” They wore surgical masks, not N-95 respirators. There was no transmission of COVID-19 to assessment centre personnel.
Should the province change its directives, “we would follow them,” Arra said.
County Coun. Luke Charbonneau, mayor of Saugeen Shores, thanked the people of the community for “bringing down the numbers precipitously.”
“Yes, we did put a call out to the community and they delivered,” said the MOH. He commended Grey-Bruce media for doing a good job in getting the information out.
In response to a comment about the upcoming May 24th weekend, Arra said, “It’s definitely on our radar.” One possible response is to issue a Section 22 order on beaches; however, the easiest way to mitigate fears about social gatherings on the long weekend would be for the province to extend its stay-at-home order.
He noted the situation was the same last year, and there was no surge in numbers after the long weekend.
Peabody asked about mixing vaccines – if someone who’d received a first dose of AstraZeneca could receive a second dose of Pfizer BioNtech if a surplus of the latter became available.
The MOH advised that both shots have to be with the same vaccine. If for some reason the AstraZeneca vaccine were not available for the second shot, the person would need two dozes of the Pfizer vaccine.
Peabody joked that he’d like to get all three, and Arra assured him he’ll get his chance. COVID will probably be like the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, which is given every five years.
County Coun. Steve Hammell, mayor of Arran-Elderslie, asked about opening public pools in a few weeks.
Arra said it’s difficult to predict what will happen in a few weeks.
“The variants are a wild card,” he said, adding that he’s “cautiously optimistic.”
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times