COVID outbreaks in county as provincial lockdown continues

·6 min read

Pembroke – There have been several small COVID-19 outbreaks declared in Renfrew County as the province enters its second week of lockdown with this part of Southern Ontario expected to remain in lockdown for a total of 28 days.

A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Pembroke Regional Hospital after two staff members associated with the emergency department were confirmed as having the virus. Another outbreak was confirmed at an esthetician workplace in Petawawa where a staff member and two clients tested positive. As well, Miramichi Lodge confirmed an employee at the Lodge, who worked on December 27 but had no resident interactions and a small number of co-worker interactions tested positive.

The Province of Ontario requires the declaration of an outbreak when two cases in the same workplace are connected. At present, the health unit is declaring one active community outbreak, one in hospital, one in a long-term care home and one in the workplace.

While there are currently 26 people in Renfrew County in self-isolation following a COVID-19 diagnosis, and no hospitalizations or individuals in the intensive care unit, Ontario is continuing to see a dramatic increase in cases despite the lockdown. On Tuesday, another 3,128 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the province and 51 people died of the disease. There are 25,840 confirmed, active cases in the province. In Ontario there are there are 1,347 people with COVID-19 in hospitals. Of those, 352 are being treated in intensive care and 245 require the use of a ventilator.

At PRH, staff confirmed the outbreak was contained to personnel in the Emergency Department. It was declared an outbreak when a second case was linked to a first positive staff case on December 27.

“Once again we want to assure our community that our hospital, and in particular, our Emergency Department, remains a safe place to come to for medical care due to the safety measures we have in place to protect our patients, visitors, staff and physicians,” said PRH President and CEO, Pierre Noel, who added that no patients have been identified as high-risk contacts of the COVID positive staff members.

Since receiving notification of the first case, the hospital has worked closely with its occupational health and safety team and the Renfrew County and District Health Unit (RCDHU) to ensure that anyone identified with a risk of exposure has been tested and is isolating and monitoring for symptoms.

“We want the community to know that no staff members who were identified as being at risk of exposure have been at work since the first case was identified nor will they be allowed to return to work until we are confident that there is no ongoing risk,” Mr. Noel said.

The hospital maintains strict safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These include organization-wide use of personal protective equipment, diligent hand hygiene and physical distancing practices, as well as guidance and protocols when physical distancing in shared spaces is not possible.

Dr. Robert Cushman, RCDHU acting medical officer of health, confirmed PRH has conducted a thorough assessment of all patient contacts in the ED during the identified time period and that there were no breaches in protocols.

“I want to assure the public that the PRH Emergency Department is safe and that there is absolutely no reason to stay away in the event that you need medical care,” he said.

In Petawawa at the esthetician workplace, the RCDHU is working closely with the workplace to ensure necessary measures continue to be in place to protect all staff and the public. All individuals who have been deemed to be close contacts of the positive cases, have been given direction by RCDHU staff to immediately self-isolate and arrange for testing.

“Please do not let down your guard,” Dr. Cushman stated. “I want to remind you all that we are currently in a province-wide lockdown, so everyone should be staying home since no indoor social gatherings with members of other households are allowed.”

The County of Renfrew issued a statement about the positive case at Miramichi Lodge, noting that while the employee who tested positive wore personal protective equipment including a surgical mask and protective eye wear, in consultation with Dr. Cushman and out of an abundance of caution, Miramichi Lodge will be testing all residents and employees.

Consistent with the provincial directives when a long-term care home has a positive COVID result, Miramichi Lodge must suspend all general visits to the Home. Designated essential caregivers are still permitted; one per resident per visit.

“We wish the employee a speedy recovery at home and are hopeful that no residents or additional staff test positive,” Renfrew County Warden Debbie Robinson said.

Rigorous infection management practices and procedures remain in place at Miramichi Lodge, according to the county.

“The health and safety of our residents and our employees remain our top priority,” Shelley Sheedy, Director of Long-Term Care, said. “We continue to follow the advice of our colleagues at Public Health to ensure our people are protected while providing care and delivering essential services to our residents.”

A previous outbreak at a Pembroke dental office, which was reported in December, has been declared over. There were no additional positive tests among staff or close contacts at the office. The health unit staff noted prompt contact tracing and testing as well as strict compliance with public health directives have successfully contained the outbreak.

The Health Unit also confirmed the outbreak at Algonquin College-Pembroke Campus is over with no additional positive tests among students, staff or close contacts at the college.

According to the statistics released by the health unit on Tuesday, there were 26 confirmed cases in self-isolation in the county. To date there have been 254 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March in the district covered by the RCDHU and one death.

The health unit has completed 47,749 tests since the pandemic began.

Currently there are positive cases in Admaston/Bromley, Deep River, Greater Madawaska, Laurentian Valley, Madawaska Valley, Pembroke, Renfrew and Whitewater Region. Head, Clara, and Maria, as well as Pikwakanagan and Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards continue to hold the distinction of being the only areas within the county with no COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

The RCDHU is reminded the public to adhere to the new public health measures set out in the provincial shutdown As well, area residents are reminded to: stay home if they are sick; avoid contact with people who are ill; practice physical distancing (2 metres); wear a mask/face covering when physical distancing cannot be maintained; wash their hands; use the COVID Alert App and complete the COVID-19 self-assessment tool or COVID-19 school screening tool daily before going to work, school or daycare, to monitor for symptoms and proper guidance.

Testing continues this week on Thursday in Laurentian Valley, Cobden and Deep River. On Friday there is testing in Arnprior, Horton and Barry’s bay. Anyone needing a test much call RV VTAC to schedule a testing time at 1-844-727-6404.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader