Pembroke -- The numbers of COVID-19 infections in the Ottawa Valley reached the 100 mark during the last week and then passed it settling in at 106 on Monday.
A monthly summary showed October was the month with the greatest number of infections to date with 32 confirmed cases in the district covered by the Renfrew County and District Health Unit (RCDHU). Currently there are 13 cases in the county with all in self isolation. There are also 92 cases considered resolved and one is deceased.
According to data released by the health unit there are currently four outbreaks in long-term-care homes or retirement homes. The latest home is Heritage Manor retirement home. However, the RCDHU Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Cushman clarified to the Leader the designation in the four homes is more a protective measure than a full outbreak with many cases.
“There are the odd employees picked up surveillance testing,” he explained. “In May or June, I would have called that a false positive, but now with so many community cases we isolate them and re-test.”
The importance of extra vigilance and noting the possibility of an outbreak is important, he said.
“You know how vulnerable our long-term-care homes are,” he said.
However, one infection does not necessarily mean it will spread throughout the home, he said.
“Our only death was our first case which was in a retirement home,” he said. “We did not get anything else there.”
Declaring the word outbreak is a precautionary measure until tests come back negative of the affected individuals.
“We are being very cautious,” he said. “If there was a linked case it would be concerning.”
According to information released by the RCDHU at noon on Tuesday, three residents of long term care/retirement homes have contracted COVID since the pandemic began and 19 health care workers have tested positive but the majority (12) work outside the county and district.
While no outbreaks have been declared at schools, the health unit did confirm on Monday, three students at area schools were infected with COVID. Two students at Valour JK-12 School in Petawawa, had positive laboratory-confirmed cases. It has been confirmed both cases were contracted outside of the school and there has been no confirmed spread within the school at this time. All students and staff who have been deemed to be a close contact of the positive cases were given direction to go home immediately to self-isolate and arrange for testing. The school remains open to in-person learning for all other students and staff.
As well, a student at Bishop Smith Catholic High School in Pembroke had a positive laboratory-confirmed case. All students and staff were in close contact of the positive case have been given direction to go home immediately to self-isolate and arrange for testing. The school remains open to in-person learning for all other students and staff. High risk contacts must self self-isolate and self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days. They should not return to work, school or childcare, in-person and be tested for COVID-19.
As numbers continue to climb in the county, the health unit issued a Section 22 Order for Self-Isolation under the Health Protection and Promotion Act requiring all residents of Renfrew County and District (RCD), to immediately begin self isolation if they: are a confirmed case or probable case of COVID-19; have signs and symptoms of COVID-19, have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting the results of their test; believe they now have one or more symptoms (even mild symptoms) of COVID-19; or are a close contact of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 or are a close contact of a person identified as a probable case of COVID-19. The Section 22 Order went into effect last Friday and failure to comply could come with additional consequences including fines.
COVID-19 testing continues across the county. Testing has been an issue in many parts of Ontario and Canada and the ongoing testing in the county continues with some changes which Dr. Cushman hopes will make things more efficient and provide a quicker turn-around with results.
“The demand is still more than the supply,” he said. “We are worried people who need to be tested aren’t.”
To enable a faster turn-around for test results there is a move to send tests to a regional laboratory as opposed to the public health lab. Having fast test results is important for everyone, he said.
Dr. Cushman noted the county numbers show most of the positive cases are in a higher density closer to the Ottawa border.
“There is a lot of action in Arnprior and Renfrew,” he said.
This week there are test stations in Deep River and Eganville today (Wednesday), Thursday in Laurentian Valley and Horton and Friday in Barry’s Bay. It is necessary to call to schedule a booking time at 1-844-727-6404
For more information on COVID-19, visit RCDHU’s website at https://www.rcdhu.com/novel-coronaviruscovid-19-2/ or call 613-732-3629 or 1-800-267-1097.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader