Health unit provides virtual COVID update

·4 min read

On Jan. 15, Bruce Power hosted a one-hour, live, virtual COVID-19 update, open to the general public.

James Scongack, executive-vice president of corporate affairs & operational services at Bruce Power, served as narrator, opening the session with an acknowledgement on how challenging the pandemic has been for the community, province, the country and the world. He stressed the importance of factual information and gave a shout out to local media for covering the event.

Scongack reminded listeners of the availability of the app Grey Bruce Huron Strong, or – a joint initiative between the Ontario Nuclear Innovation Institute and NPX Innovation. The app, with more than 8,000 residents involved, gives access to contests, fitness challenges, mindfulness activities, opportunities to help seniors, upcoming events and fundraisers. It will continue to be a communication platform as vaccination information becomes available. The app also promotes buying local in this community.

Scongack’s remarks were followed by the introduction of president and CEO, Mike Rencheck. Rencheck extended his thanks to front line medical workers, front line workers in grocery stores and essential services, teachers and all the workers at Bruce Power for “keeping the lights on” and continuing to produce vitally essential medical isotopes. He also thanked everyone who has been supporting local business and local charities. He said these times are an “all hands on deck moment” and when we pull together, we will be strong.

Rencheck was followed by Huron Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson and MPP for Bruce Grey Owen Sound, Bill Walker. Thompson, who told viewers “we are strong”, also mentioned that small businesses should apply for the recently launched small business grant. She also said small business can tap into all federal and provincial programs available to them by visiting Walker extended his thanks to everyone abiding by health guidelines and asked everyone to “hold on to the hope”.

Dr. Ian Arra, Grey Bruce chief medical officer of health and CEO, was the last to appear during the session. Dr. Arra said pandemics only happen every 100 years and residents should continue to “stay the course” as they have for the last 10 months.

He addressed the lockdown and stay-at-home order, offering thoughts on the benefits of the order and what each of us can do on an individual level. The order is necessary, “indispensable”, to save lives. Residents can action this by staying home unless you really have to go out to get food or go to the pharmacy. He acknowledged this is “painful” but to remember that this is saving lives.

Dr. Arra said if you look at the situation in Grey Bruce, it remains “relatively favourable.” The two-week surge following the holidays seems to have passed and the number of cases per day has been falling.

The doctor addressed the return of students to in-class learning on Jan. 25, saying they were ready to go back but with restrictions, including abiding by the stay-at-home order after the end of the school day.

Talking about the vaccine, Dr. Arra said all pandemics end and the vaccine will make this happen sooner. His “prescription for success” continues to be the three Ws – washing hands frequently, wearing a mask correctly and watching our distance.

Finally, Dr. Arra brought up the “be calm, be kind” mantra that he often mentions. He says the pandemic is a “hardship and people are in pain,” whether it is a small business, people staying home or not able to hug a loved one. He said in the middle of a hardship, it is very easy to point a finger at others and blame them. It is the pandemic that is the hardship.

“We need … to remind everyone around us, this is not going to end tomorrow,” said Dr. Arra. “It’s going to end in a few weeks and a few months and we need to stay that course.”

Dr. Arra then fielded a number of questions submitted by the public, covering topics including vaccines. Dr. Arra said the vaccine will change the course of the pandemic. The vaccines sent so far were administered to patients, staff and caregivers in long term care homes on the same day they were received.

Plans for administering the vaccine began in August 2020, The vaccine will be administered depending on which vaccine is received, a traditional distribution plan (using the Moderna vaccine), through the health unit, primary care family health teams, long term care, hospitals and usually pharmacies. A separate plan for administering the Pfizer vaccine, which is less flexible with its mobility, will be distributed through mass-immunization clinics, or hubs.

These hubs could be at the recovery centres, which are already set up. Dr. Arra also said the acceptance rate for the vaccine in Grey Bruce is high, above the provincial average.

Final questions included information on the safety of children returning to school, what happens after a positive test and how is contact tracing conducted.

Dr. Arra finished his comments by saying that we can remind ourselves that what we are doing and the sacrifices we are making is saving lives. We should stay home, and connect following the recommendations with helping others. “We are creatures of habit” and creating habits that help us through the lockdown is positive.

Tammy Lindsay, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent