Grey-Bruce medical officer of health thanks public for their co-operation

·3 min read

Grey County deputy-warden and Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen wanted local people to get a clearer picture of where things stand in the response to COVID-19.

So he called a special meeting last week, which is now available for public viewing for area residents on his municipality’s You Tube channel, with guests including the Grey Bruce Medical Officer of Health.

“There’s been a lot of mixed messaging that’s been out there,” the Mayor said, following the provincial changes in guidelines.

Another unrelated but significant incident locally was a recent warning of a “critical threshold” of maintaining the ability to trace each case of COVID-19 and its contacts.

Dr. Ian Arra, Grey Bruce MOH, told residents in Grey-Bruce to act “as if” they could be carrying COVID-19 on Thursday and Friday, Apr. 15 and 16, to prevent further cases as the local health unit tried to keep a grip on contact tracing.

Dr. Arra, appeared at the online meeting to say that through the public’s co-operation, the health unit was able to maintain contact-tracing ability. There were more than 70 new confirmed cases across Grey Bruce in 36 hours with the potential to generate hundreds of additional close contacts.

While there were reports of the disease being spread through asymptomatic social visits and “bush parties,” he cautioned against scapegoating “our teenagers and young people.”

“I do believe they transmitted the disease innocently,” he said. “It did not start with them – they were part of the chain." The youth may not understand the chain of transmission from their social gatherings that later puts older people in danger, he said.

“It’s on all of us to pass this information to young people.”.

He last week that he expected “a little surge” to continue in Grey-Bruce until the end of the month and then get “back to baseline.”

The variants do introduce some uncertainty, he said, but so far numbers have followed the patterns observed during the Spanish flu.

Based on that, he foresees “a small surge, and go back to baseline and then the vaccine can put the last nail in the coffin of this pandemic this summer.”

He said “tweaking the vaccine” to cover any new variants should not be a problem, and added that he will be happy to get any one of the vaccines when his turn comes according to eligibility criteria in Grey-Bruce.

He views the public in Grey-Bruce as “informed, engaged but not afraid” and remarked that while engagement with public health measures is usually at 50 to 60 percent, in Grey-Bruce it’s about 80 percent, be it masks, isolation or other measures.

When he called on the public for its co-operation in mid-April, “I knew the response would be favourable,” he said.

In fact, people went “above and beyond” voluntarily to reduce the chance of transmission before all contacts involved in the surge in cases had been reached and knew to isolate.

Co-operation of local politicians also has been key in responding quickly to a continually-changing situation, he said.

He explained that no appointments had been booked for the large-sclae clinic that was cancelled on Saturday, Apr. 17 so those staff could do contact-tracing. It had been planned for the education sector before it was known that students would be online after the break week.

The doses were re-deployed and administered to those living in shelters, group homes and other such settings.

Dr. Arra said that the role of enforcement has become more active recently because COVID fatigue is cumulative – “in the past few weeks many, many tickets were issued.”

M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald