HURON-PERTH – COVID-19 outbreaks have been declared at two schools and one retirement residence in Listowel.
In a media call on Dec. 3, Huron Perth’s medical officer of health, Dr. Miriam Klassen, announced 18 new cases of COVID-19 in the region. These new cases bring the cumulative total for the region to 362, with 52 currently active.
“The majority of the new cases are contacts of confirmed cases,” said Klassen.
Northside Christian School and St. Mary’s Public School, both in Listowel, are in outbreak. Northside remains closed and a cohort has been dismissed at St Mary’s.
Schools with active cases where a cohort or classmates had to be dismissed include Ann Hathaway in Stratford, Listowel District Secondary School, Goderich District Collegiate Institute and Central Huron Secondary School in Clinton, but in all of those, there has been no evidence of further transmission.
“We identify bus cohorts and ask them to dismiss as well,” said Klassen.
- Klassen issues order allowing fines for not complying with Public Health directions
- Northside Christian School remains closed, four positive cases at St. Mary’s Catholic School
- HPPH recommends cloth masks over plastic ‘mingle masks’ for better source protection
Two retirement homes and one long-term care facility are in outbreak.
Cedarcroft Place Retirement Home has had a total of 47 confirmed cases in residents and 23 in staff. Two residents who were decanted to hospital and were nearing the end of their 14-day isolation period received positive test results on surveillance, so they remain in isolation in hospital.
“The fact they became positive so close to the end of their isolation is under investigation if there was a different source,” said Klassen.
Five community members not related to the Cedarcroft outbreak are in hospital with COVID-related symptoms.
A new outbreak has been declared at Livingstone Manor in Listowel after an asymptomatic staff member tested positive during routine surveillance testing.
The outbreak at Knollcrest Lodge in Milverton was declared over Dec. 3 and an outbreak at Spruce Lodge in Stratford is expected to be declared over in a few days.
So far, no tickets have been issued under the Section 22 Class Order that came into effect last Sunday in Huron-Perth.
Klassen spoke to worries that people from higher transmission areas might travel to lower transmission areas to participate in activities that are currently not permitted in their home region.
“The provincial framework does state that people are advised to not travel from higher levels of transmission to lower area levels of transmission except for essential reasons,” she said.
“There are lots of essential reasons. Some people work across borders or are transporting goods we need … it would be very hard to stop all traffic from coming in and knowing who is coming from where.”
Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) has recommended to local municipalities and organizations that they should discourage visits and bookings from people from higher-level areas of transmission.
Klassen said businesses, organizations and households need to be vigilant about the measures they put into place for protection.
“If businesses and organizations are doing a really good job of active screening, keeping the two-metre distance, enhanced cleaning – then the risk of transmission is very low,” she said.
“What our cases are showing us, what the cases across Ontario are showing us is that it is people that give each other COVID so it is that close human interaction that causes transmission.”
“A vaccine is now within our sight – that’s going to change things but of course we can’t get the vaccine into that many arms all at once. That is going to take months.”
– Dr. Miriam Klassen, medical officer of health for Huron Perth
Klassen does not want to speculate about whether Huron-Perth could be moved into the red alert level.
“The picture of COVID in Huron Perth changes very rapidly and has been doing that over the last eight months,” she said.
“Based on my look at the data right now that would put us into the orange (alert level), but the Ministry (of Health) has other considerations as well that I may not be privy to. At this time the numbers are still, in my view, going in the wrong direction and are high. HPPH staff are still able to do case and contact management but we’re following over 50 cases and over 350 contacts right now.”
Klassen emphasized that being concerned about where the positive cases are happening right now is the wrong way to look at the situation because that transmission could have happened two weeks ago.
“We need to continue to behave as though we are capable of transmitting the virus to somebody else unknowingly and that everyone we encounter is capable of transmitting the virus to us,” she said.
“A vaccine is now within our sight – that’s going to change things but of course we can’t get the vaccine into that many arms all at once. That is going to take months. In the meantime, we’re going to have to continue these Public Health measures to continue to protect our most vulnerable populations, to protect our health system capacity, and to give our health care workers a break because there are a lot of them who have been working very hard for a very long time.”
Colin Burrowes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Listowel Banner. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.