HURON-PERTH – The number of active cases of COVID-19 in the region is currently at a highwater mark of 29. Dr. Miriam Klassen, Medical Officer of Health in Huron-Perth, reported during her media conference on Aug. 24 the total number of cases in Huron-Perth since the pandemic was declared has risen to 116.
“This is a high number of active cases for us but one thing to keep in context is now we have so much more testing capacity,” she said. “Earlier in the pandemic we were only testing people who had severe symptoms or we were testing health care workers so we know we were missing many cases then.”
Prevalence studies conducted by Public Health Ontario suggest about one per cent of Ontario was exposed to the virus in the first round.
“So out of a population of 136,000… a lot more people had it but we weren’t testing everybody,” said Klassen. “Now we’re in a much more favourable position where we have lots of testing capacity and we test everyone who is symptomatic and we can test close contacts.”
She took the opportunity to point out the more favourable perspective the health system has now as opposed to when the virus first showed up in the area.
On top of the increased testing capacity, there is hospital capacity to handle any cases and Public Health capacity to do case management and contact tracing.
“We like to see that the per cent positivity of the tests remains below five per cent as the World Health Organization is recommending so that we’re doing enough testing,” she said.
She also said it is a positive sign that new cases are linked to previous cases.
“If all of a sudden we have cases and we don’t know where they came from, that would be more worrisome,” she said. “Certainly we’re not happy to see this many new cases and this many active cases, however, on the flip side of it there have been no new hospitalizations or deaths.”
Klassen is confident Public Health is finding all the contacts connected to clusters and putting them in isolation.
“We communicate with everybody regularly,” she said. “My staff are making hundreds of calls. At this point, I think all the correct measures are in place but it is a good reminder to us all we’re a long way from a time when those public health measures are not important.”
According to Klassen, it is not accurate to attribute all the recent cases to one particular group of people.
“We will not be specifying groups at this time as it does not change our public health recommendations,” she said.
The important thing for residents to know is that cases can pop up anywhere in Huron-Perth as people move around more, so she encourages everyone to be vigilant in their activities.
Klassen repeated the public health recommendations which can help stop the chains of transmission; stay home if you are sick, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, practice physical distancing of two metres when around people who are not in your social circle and wear a non-medical cloth face-covering in indoor public spaces and in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
“You still need to be careful with your social circles,” she said. “That’s the only place where you can relax about maintaining the two-metre distance and share hugs.”
On July 30, as part of its plan for the safe reopening of schools in September, the Government of Ontario announced an investment of $50 million to hire up to 500 additional school-focused nurses to provide rapid response to schools and boards facilitating health and preventive measures.
“We have not defined all the roles these nurses will perform locally but we are actively recruiting for four temporary full-time public health care nurses, two based in our Clinton office and two in our Stratford office,” said Klassen.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner