Health unit set to scale back reporting, Colby on vacation until retirement

·3 min read

Chatham-Kent Public Health will be changing how it reports COVID-19 cases in the community next week.

Posted initially every weekday and then changed to three times per week, the reporting will now take place on Wednesdays at 11 a.m.

Chatham-Kent Public Health announced it would only provide COVID-19 surveillance reports for the municipality once per week beginning next week. Each Wednesday, the COVID-19 surveillance report will shift to capturing the most recent week when reporting on cases and outbreaks.

Despite the change, officials noted the public will still be kept aware of trends, and any increased local risk, through various communication channels.

“We have continued to see increased COVID activity in Chatham-Kent. As CK has lagged behind the overall provincial trend, levels should start to decrease in coming weeks,” stated a release Thursday.

Public health officials acknowledged that Chatham-Kent has continued to see increased COVID-19 activity, with the latest update on April 28 reporting 93 new high-risk cases. The seven-day average also increased to 39 new cases per day.

“Levels should start to decrease in coming weeks, as CK has lagged behind the overall provincial trend,” the health unit said.

The health unit also highlighted that lab-confirmed cases are still an underestimate of the true level of infection in Chatham-Kent, and monitoring trends over time across all sources of surveillance data continues to be an important focus through this wave.

Also announced was the weekly media call, which was in place since the pandemic began more than two years ago and is now coming to an end.

The call gave an opportunity for officials to update media on pandemic matters and other important issues as in-person access had to be restricted for public-health reasons.

“Certainly, if there are issues that pop up that require it, we’ll do a call-in,” said Mayor Darrin Canniff. “With Dr. Colby retiring, that was kind of the main reason.”

Canniff said that after announcing last month that he would be retiring by the end of the year, Medical Officer Dr. David Colby is taking his first vacation since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Colby had worked more than 700 days in a row.

Colby said he accumulated the holidays because he couldn’t take them when the pandemic hit and carried lots of vacation time into 2020. He hopes the public doesn’t misinterpret the departure as taking advantage of the situation but rather as time earned.

“He’s on vacation right now. He hasn’t taken a vacation in a long, long time. Part of his retiring will be a well-earned vacation,” said Canniff.

Colby’s retirement is set to take effect at the end of 2022.

Chatham-Kent’s Communications Director, Jim Blake, said Lambton County’s Medical Officer, Dr. Sudit Ranade, will be filling Dr. Colby’s shoes when necessary.

“What usually happens in these situations when a Medical Officer of Health is on vacation, they have someone from a neighbouring municipality filling in, making sure that the essential duties are taken care of,” said Blake.

General Manager of Community Human Services and CEO of Chatham-Kent Public Health, April Rietdyk, said MOHs routinely cover each other during absences.

“I know Dr. Ranade well, and Chatham-Kent is in good hands,” she said

Meanwhile, the health unit has begun recruiting a new Medical Officer of Health for the municipality.

In addition to the many changes announced, with respect to when council can return in person, the mayor said Chatham-Kent would be looking at the best practices in other communities.

“I see the future of council meetings as a hybrid (with) in person, but you can tune in electronically,” he said. “I know that they’re working hard to come up with the technology that’s going to work.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News

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