WECHU assessing its colour-coded alert system as province introduces its own colour-based alerts

·3 min read

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit says it will continue with its new alert system for now, even though the province introduced its own on Tuesday that seems to contradict the local risk assessment.

The WECHU's "local pandemic status" alert system was introduced on Friday. It placed the region at the orange "medium" level — the second of three levels, which means "focused attention is needed on certain indicators to address growing concern of COVID-19 in the community," according to the health unit's web site.

The province announced its system Tuesday, and it has proposed that Windsor-Essex be at the green or "prevent" level, which is the lowest of its five levels. The system does not officially roll out until this Friday. Its aim is to allow the province to enact public health measures, including restrictions, earlier in response to local health unit data.

"This framework, developed in consultation with our health experts, will serve as an early warning system allowing us to scale up and scale back public health restrictions on a regional or community basis in response to surges and waves of COVID-19. By introducing public health measures sooner, we can keep this deadly virus at bay, bend the curve and reclaim a little more of our normal lives," said Ontario Premier Doug Ford in a news release.

When asked in a Wednesday briefing if the two different systems could create confusion in Windsor-Essex, chief medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said the local health unit was not aware the provincial system was coming.

"It would've been much easier if we know what's coming down the pipeline," he said. "Obviously we do not want any confusion in the public's mind."

Ahmed did express hope that the systems could at least temporarily exist alongside each other. He said the local system was "much more elaborate." He added that the local system is used for giving the public a general risk level, while the province's system would be more focused on informing new public health measures.

"[The local system] is more of an indicator to tell you how we are doing as a region in Windsor-Essex," he said. "But obviously with the provincial indicator system there are restrictions that could kick in."

Ahmed said that next week the health unit would have more of an idea of how to blend the systems together.

Windsor-Essex County Health Unit
Windsor-Essex County Health Unit

Windsor-Essex reported three new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. One case is a long-term care resident, another is from close contact with an infected individual and a third is still under investigation.

The region has now had 2,872 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 63 of which are active, with 76 deaths. Two people are in hospital.

WECHU CEO Theresa Marentette said there was a new charge issued to a Windsor food supply business where the operator and/or staff were not abiding by mandatory masking rules.

Long-term care and retirement home outbreaks continue

Iler Lodge, a long-term care home, and Lifetimes on Riverside, a retirement home, are in outbreak. Iler Lodge currently has four confirmed cases and Lifetimes has seven.

Ahmed said that while there's always concern about the virus's spread in any outbreak, he didn't see any indication that these outbreaks were likely to be severe, though it's still early.

"At this point, there's nothing ... to tell me that it could turn out to be a big outbreak, but we know that sometimes it takes some time for the infection to present itself after incubating the virus," he said.

COVID-19 in Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton

Chatham-Kent Public Health reported 417 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday — with 25 active cases and three deaths.

Lambton Public Health reported 374 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — an increase of one on Tuesday, with five active cases and 25 deaths.

Fiddick's Retirement Home in Petrolia is experiencing an outbreak, with one confirmed case.