No outbreaks as new cases decline in county

·3 min read

Pembroke – With no COVID-19 outbreaks currently in Renfrew County, only two people currently diagnosed with the virus and vaccines beginning to be administered in long-term care homes, these positive signs are tempered by news of the second death from the virus.

A release from the Renfrew County and District Health Unit (RCDHU) confirmed last week a second individual had died from the virus. In an interview with the Leaderearlier in the week, Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Cushman had confirmed an individual was in hospital in Ottawa following the diagnosis and did have significant comorbidities.

Vaccines are also beginning to be administered, with the first clinic for residents at Valley Manor in Barry’s Bay. The health unit is working with long-term care homes to provide the vaccinations during the next two weeks in accordance with the provincial government announcement each long-term care, high-risk retirement home and First Nations elder care home resident in the province would receive first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by February 5. A reduced shipment of vaccines to the province has meant staff and essential caregivers will be vaccinated at a later date, as supply stabilizes.

“We are asking residents to be patient during this time,” Dr. Cushman said. “We will release more information on timelines and vaccine roll out as it becomes available. It is our firm hope that keeping our case numbers low and rolling out the vaccines will put this behind us. Remember, we need to work together to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

On Tuesday, the health unit reported two people in self-isolation with confirmed cases of COVID. There have been 297 people who have tested positive for the virus and 293 who have recovered. No new cases were diagnosed on Tuesday.

However, this week also marked the beginning of a return to back-to-schools in the county. Following a break of over a month, students in elementary and secondary schools returned to in-person instruction on Monday morning. They had previously been doing online learning since the province announced a decision to close all schools in the province to in-person learning. Schools in Renfrew County were one of only seven districts in the province which saw a resumption of in-person learning.

Looking at COVID numbers in the district covered by the RCDHU, the numbers are much more encouraging than early January projections. In December there were over 90 confirmed cases of COVID, the highest number of any month since the pandemic statistics were first recorded in March 2020. The health unit is reporting 61 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 in January, with a week remaining.

“After the holidays, we saw a rise in cases related to gatherings and lack of adherence to public health measures,” Dr. Cushman noted. “Since then, cases in Renfrew County and district have remained relatively low, and we aim to keep trending downward.”

Renfrew County has seen 21 outbreaks since the pandemic began and although 49 health care workers have been diagnosed with COVID, only three residents of long-term-care homes/retirement homes have been diagnosed with the virus. This is in stark contrast with other areas of the province and the dominion where many long-term-care homes/retirement homes have seen horrific outbreaks.

The county has recorded 25 positive cases of COVID within the school setting since the pandemic began. Of these 10 were among staff members and 15 among students. With the resumption of school holding in-person class, Dr. Cushman is reminding area residents to not let their guard down.

Provincially, numbers are also on a downward trend with 1,740 cases reported on Tuesday, the lowest daily number since mid-December.

COVID testing continues in the county. Testing is done by appointment and anyone needing a test must call RCVTAC at 1-844-727-6404 to schedule a testing time.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader