Klassen tells municipalities to put helping out with mass vaccination on their radars

·4 min read

HURON-PERTH – With new 50 cases of COVID-19 confirmed over the weekend, the total for the region has reached 755.

“Over the entire holiday period the case count was very high with new peaks being reached both on Christmas Day… and New Year’s Day,” said Dr. Miriam Klassen, Huron-Perth medical officer of health, during her media briefing on Jan. 4.

Currently, there are 106 active cases with two people in hospital due to COVID-19 in Huron-Perth. There have now been 22 deaths in the region.

The outbreak at Listowel Memorial Hospital was declared over on Dec. 31.

Long-term care and retirement homes in outbreak include Livingstone Manor in Listowel with two residents and one staff member positive, Braemar Retirement Centre in North Huron with two staff members positive, Exeter Villa in Huron South with 17 residents and seven staff positive and Hillside Manor in Perth East with one staff member positive.

“I’m pleased to share that the outbreak at Cedarcroft Retirement Place has been declared over,” said Klassen. “That also happened on Dec. 31. Unfortunately, as we all know many residents, families and staff suffered through a very heart-wrenching time during which the outbreak caused much illness and many deaths.”

Klassen commented on COVID fatigue.

“It’s been a long time where we’ve all been asked to follow pandemic response measures and we know that it’s hard for people to keep going,” she said. “We know that many people have been through a lot and we don’t underestimate the reality of burnout and fatigue. We also don’t want this to cost our region all the hard work we’ve accomplished in 2020. We do want to get to that light at the end of the tunnel.”

She reminded residents that the Public Health measures which have been recommended are helping to break chains of transmission and stop the spread of the infection.

“You do make a difference by keeping to your household, keeping physical distance from anyone not in your household, wearing a face covering, washing your hands frequently and staying home when you are ill,” said Klassen.

Long-term care and retirement home staff are continuing to receive the Pfizer vaccine through the London Health Sciences Centre in partnership with Middlesex London Public Health Unit, Southwestern Public Health and Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) as part of phase one of the vaccine distribution plan.

Planning continues for vaccinations within Huron-Perth and when that is ready to go, Klassen said the next population to be vaccinated will be residents of long-term care and retirement homes.

Klassen said the good news about the vaccine is that within two weeks after the first dose there is a fair amount of immunity.

“We don’t know how long that will last,” she said. “You have to have the second dose as well but the immunity starts to be significant around two weeks after the first dose so the sooner we can get going the better.”

She said following two invitations for 15 per cent of staff in long-term care homes the invitation has been expanded to all staff members and local hospital staff has started to get vaccinated too, especially at hospitals which were in outbreak.

Glen McNeil, warden of Huron County, invited Klassen to reach out for any assistance Huron County can give to HPPH.

“Thank you very much – I’ll just put it on your radar right now,” said Klassen. “When it comes time to have mass vaccination clinics, if I were a betting person I’d bet we’ll be reaching out to municipalities to look for space and possibly just help – crowd control and that kind of thing – so we’ll let you know. We’re looking forward to getting the vaccine so that we can start putting it into arms as quickly as possible.”

Klassen said she hates to speculate about an extension of the current lockdown.

“Certainly if the case counts don’t improve significantly I would see that as a reasonable decision,” she said. “My concern is that we really didn’t put the strict measures into place until Dec. 26 and typically it takes two or three weeks for that to work so it wouldn’t surprise me if things continued at this pace or got worse before they started to get better. Having said that I know we were sharing messaging about people taking those measures before lockdown starting and I know I see that many people are doing their utmost to follow those measures so hopefully we’ll see positive impacts from that.”

When asked for her opinion on politicians who have been travelling overseas during the holiday break, Klassen said she sees most Ontarians following Public Health advice and that is what she is focusing on.

“I do think that all leaders need to not just talk the talk but walk the talk,” she said.

She closed the briefing by saying everyone will have the opportunity to be vaccinated in 2021.

“It’s important that all of us behave at all times like everyone is a potential source of the COVID-19 infection,” said Klassen.

Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner