GREY-BRUCE – Dr. Ian Arra, Grey-Bruce medical officer of health (MOH), has a message for local residents: “Stay positive, test negative.”
The best way to accomplish that is to take 30 minutes and get vaccinated.
He stresses the current situation, with outbreaks of COVID-19 in the Chesley area, Saugeen First Nation and now Meaford, is being driven by “people who are not vaccinated.”
The province has made plenty of vaccine available to Grey-Bruce – an additional 25,000 doses per week.
“Don’t wait for August (when the province scheduled many second doses). There are enough vaccines to complete mass vaccination in July,” said Arra.
There are clinics scheduled all this week, and they’re not full, said the MOH. While bookings are being accepted, all the clinics have a walk-in component. In addition to the hockey hubs, there are pop-up clinics and drive-thru clinics.
“We went to the mall in Saugeen Shores,” Arra said. “Another location is the courthouse.”
Everyone in shelters – both formal and informal (rooming houses, etc.) has had access to vaccines.
“We need the public to help us,” Arra said bluntly, “to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.”
As of Monday, Arra said 191,000 doses of vaccine had been administered in Grey-Bruce. Thirty thousand more would bring the area to the 70 per cent of the eligible population (people over 12 years old) needed for herd immunity.
He said 73 per cent of the eligible population has had one dose of vaccine; 55 per cent have had both doses. He’d like to see that gap closed. People who have had one dose of vaccine are obviously not vaccine-hesitant. They need to go ahead and get that second dose. There are about 27,000 people in need of their second dose.
A press release on the health unit website stated, “The Grey Bruce Health Unit is pulling out all the stops to get everyone vaccinated before the end of July. Having everyone vaccinated would make Grey-Bruce one of the first jurisdictions to achieve herd immunity and stall any further spread of the virus. It is our only way out to recover from this pandemic.”
Reopening to go as scheduled
As of Tuesday morning, Arra anticipated the provincial plan to move into step three of the reopening on Friday to go ahead as scheduled.
Because of the nature of recent outbreaks in Grey-Bruce, nothing would be accomplished by remaining in step two, or moving back to step one, he explained, despite the fact there’s evidence the Delta variant is present.
“It wouldn’t help,” Arra said. “Vaccine in arms, will. The virus does not have legs or wings; it needs (unvaccinated) people to spread.”
Added Arra, “We are not seeing outbreaks at organized events.” These include grocery stores, etc.
The outbreaks, which Arra likened to “small fires to put out” through contact tracing and other measures are associated with “people who are unvaccinated participating in … activities where public health recommendations are not followed,” for example, birthday parties where children are allowed to mingle with others who have symptoms.
There are two groups among whom outbreaks are presently occurring, Arra explained. One is people who have housing challenges. Steps have been taken to ensure they have a place to isolate.
Arra noted the seven new cases at Saugeen First Nation earlier this week involved people who were close contacts of people previously diagnosed and were already isolating. Saugeen First Nation had suffered a devastating outbreak that led local officials to declare an emergency and issue a stay-at-home order.
The second group is substance users who purchase substances from, and use substances with, people infected with COVID-19. Although initially this involved people who have housing challenges, it’s now taking place where there are no such challenges.
Although the Delta variant is more transmissible than earlier forms of COVID-19, Arra said the “three Ws” – wash your hands frequently, wear a mask correctly and watch your distance, preferably six feet – are effective at preventing the spread of the virus.
The focus has to remain on getting vaccinated, he said, to bring us closer the time when no one has to wear masks any longer.
“With the surge of Delta cases, there is nothing more important for every one of us in Grey-Bruce this month than to ensure we get the two doses of vaccine as soon as possible,” said Arra “Investing 30 minutes before the end of July to get the vaccine is our duty to protect ourselves, our families, and our community.”