Epidemiology trends in Grey-Bruce point to two main drivers behind the local spread of COVID-19 – private gatherings and individuals living in transient housing.
“The transient low-economic status is definitely something that our society will have to look closer at after the pandemic because of the disadvantages and the challenges that this group has had for a long time. But, right now it is manifesting itself in a number of cases with a high number of high-risk contacts,” said Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU).
Arra explained that the health unit has conducted social analysis of epidemiology data to pinpoint where the majority of COVID-19 transmission is occurring.
“Most of these cases that we've seen over the past few weeks are related to these two groups," he said, adding that there are also cases occurring in regulated and commercial settings – such as childcare facilities and/or restaurants – but they are not transmitting in the same way.
He reported that the health unit, through several different departments, has been working to provide support for the individuals in transient housing as well as accelerating vaccine delivery where possible.
The other major driver behind the surge in cases is private gatherings, which have resulted in several outbreaks and “significant additional cases, infecting the attendees as well as their families and close contacts”.
To exacerbate the situation, the party goers did not provide timely and accurate information to the health unit.
“Although many teens and young adults who attended these parties were forthcoming with information, some withheld information or provided incomplete information. This hindering of our investigators negatively affected our ability to reach high-risk individuals in a timely manner, potentially allowing for more spread of the virus,” stated Arra in a release.
The GBHU is now working on pursuing charges against the individuals who are identified as not in compliance and/or obstructing the public health investigation.
“Working through the case investigation process, it becomes evident as to the identity of those that have been withholding or providing false information,” Arra continued.
Arra added that effective contact tracing and case management has been vital to the health unit’s ability to maintain control over the pandemic at the local level, noting that it is critical high-risk contacts are contacted as soon as possible to ensure there is no further spread of the virus.
The health unit has announced that party hosts and attendees who fail to follow either the provincial regulations and/or the local Section 22 Medical Officer of Health Class Order, are liable for charges.
For non-compliance with the GBHU’s Case and Contact Management Team’s direction and/or obstruction of investigations, the fine, upon conviction, can be up to $5,000 a day and can be levied retroactively to the day the initial non-disclosure occurred.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca