Pembroke -- As COVID-19 numbers continue to climb in the county, reaching 287 total cases since the pandemic began, the Renfrew County and District Health Unit (RCDHU) has confirmed four outbreaks are over.
“All precautions were taken to limit spread during all outbreaks, containing the virus, and preventing spread throughout Renfrew County and District,” Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health, said. “This demonstrates the important offensive role the general public plays in the fight against COVID-19 and the remarkable defense of the public health professionals and healthcare workers. This is a great example that when we work together, we can stop the spread.”
The health unit confirmed outbreaks are over in: Whitewater Region Community; Pembroke Regional Hospital; Miramichi Lodge, and the Esthetician Workplace in Petawawa. There is still an outbreak at Marianhill long-term care home in Pembroke. There was no serious illness requiring hospitalization amongst the individuals who tested positive for COVID-19.
Dr. Cushman pointed out this was due in large part to the co-operation from the staff at the facilities and the greater public. He also pointed out the local health unit staff has been working hard to deal with the outbreaks and the pandemic.
“I want to extend a sincere thank you to RCDHU staff who have been working long hours, seven-days a week, to conduct prompt contact tracing and to our partners for rapid testing. RCDHU’s staff efforts coupled with the publics’ strict compliance with public health directives have successfully contained the outbreaks,” he said.
There are currently 26 people in self-isolation in the county with confirmed cases of the virus. This includes one health care worker employed at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in Barry’s Bay. However, this is not considered an outbreak at this point. According to statistics released by the health unit there is only one outbreak in the county at this time.
On a cautionary note, Dr.Cushman pointed out there have been more cases this past December and so far in January compared to the previous numbers in Renfrew County and District.
“This is a stark message,” he said. “It underscores how important it is for everyone to continue practicing hand hygiene, masking, and physical distancing, as well as limiting contacts and unnecessary travel. In order to get through the winter and before vaccines are widely available, we must all do our best.”
The month of December saw almost 90 confirmed cases of COVID. November had 66 cases. By contrast, the first wave of the pandemic in March, April and May saw monthly totals of 13, four and six cases each. Some areas of the county have yet to see a confirmed case, including Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards, Pikwakanagan and Head, Clara and Maria. The hardest hit areas during the pandemic are Arnprior, Greater Madawaska, Renfrew, Horton, Whitewater Region, Laurentian Valley, Pembroke and Petawawa.
St. Francis Memorial
In Barry’s Bay, St. Francis Memorial Hospital administration confirmed the hospital is still safe for patients.
“We want to reassure the community that we have been working closely with many stakeholders, regional partners and our medical staff, as well as both the Renfrew County District Health Unit and Ottawa Public Health to ensure we are responding effectively and efficiently to this matter,” CEO Julia Boudreau said. “The safety of our patients, staff, physicians and members of our community is our highest priority.”
Diligent contact tracing has taken place and all those who may have come into close or prolonged contact with the positive case have been provided direction for self-monitoring and self-isolating as warranted by their specific situation. It is important to note that because of the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and adherence to related safety procedures, all contacts to date are considered low risk.
Practices and policies have been in place at SFMH since the beginning of the pandemic to protect patients, their families, SFMH staff and physicians. That includes screening, restricted visiting, universal masking and diligent hand washing.
“SFMH is here to meet the healthcare needs of our community,” Dr. Jason Malinowski, SFMH chief of staff, said “Staff are following proven infection control and occupational health methods, and SFMH has been able to act early, conduct effective tracing and ensure that we can continue to provide safe care to our patients.”
COVID testing continues in the county with tests on Thursday in Cobden and Deep River. Friday tests are being done in Laurentian Valley and Barry’s Bay with tests on Saturday in Arnprior and Horton. Testing is done by appointment and anyone needing a test must call RCVTAC at 1-844-727-6404 to schedule a testing time.
The Health Unit noted in addition to the new public health measures set out in the provincial shutdown, it is imperative everyone do their part to keep the community safe; 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.
For more information, visit RCDHU’s website at https://www.rcdhu.com/novel-coronavirus-covid-19-2/ or call 613-732-3629 or 1-800-267-1097.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader