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Huron Perth Public Health concerned public becoming complacent about health measures

Klassen: ‘We really are doing this to minimize spread and to protect other people, so it’s important people take their responsibilities seriously’

By Colin Burrowes

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

HURON-PERTH – Public Health has reported two new cases of COVID-19 over the past four days, bringing the total number of positive cases in the area to 54.

“During our contact tracing work on recent confirmed cases, we’re noticing that people are identifying more contacts and I’m worried that residents have become complacent about protecting themselves and their families,” says Dr. Miriam Klassen, Medical Officer of Health.

She encourages people to ask themselves if their daily activities comply with public health measures.

“I’m not just talking about the two recent cases,” said Klassen. “Our impression … is that initially in the pandemic, when we would contact people, often there were very few contacts because people were being very careful with public health advice and also more places were closed.”

Over the last week during contact tracing, Public Health has been finding people are being less vigilant and not being careful about public health measures.

Klassen’s impression is that as the pandemic drags on, people are keen to get back to normal and they are getting tired, but she said it is important to carefully maintain the recommended health practices.

She emphasized the Public Health recommendations which everyone needs be taking, such as keeping two-metres physical distance from people outside of your household, not sharing food or drinks, wearing a cloth mask if you are not able to physically distance, washing hands frequently and staying home if you are sick.

As of June 4, 3,713 tests have been completed in Huron-Perth, with 3,539 negative results and 120 still pending.

These numbers do not include the 2,840 tests taken of every resident and staff member in long-term care homes in the region.

“We’re reminding people that it’s very important when we’re calling to follow up on a reportable disease and to ask for contacts, it’s serious,” said Klassen

“We really are doing this to minimize spread and to protect other people, so it’s important people take their responsibilities seriously.”

She said when Public Health conducts its investigation, it is not contacting people to comment on whether every rule or guideline was being followed and Public Health will strive to protect privacy.

“When a person tests positive it is the law to co-operate with Public Health during the contact tracing process, including letting us know honestly about your activities and who your close contacts have been in the time leading up to your positive test result,” said Klassen.

“This is always the case, not just with COVID-19. This is a fundamental role with Public Heath to follow up on reportable diseases.”

When Huron Perth Public Health receives a report of a confirmed positive case of COVID-19, staff immediately follows up to ensure the person diagnosed is self-isolating, and identifies the period in which they would have been infectious.

The person’s actions are retraced from 48 hours before testing (for asymptomatic people) or 48 hours before symptom onset to assess who they may have come in contact with while they were capable of transmitting illness and to identify the risk of infection for contacts.

Public Health then follows up with each person identified as being at risk. For those at higher risk, direction is provided including whether they need to isolate and for how long.

For some, the risk is not too high. Those individuals have to monitor their symptoms for up to two weeks to ensure they do not become infected.

High-risk contacts typically have had face-to-face contact, within two metres for more than 15 minutes, with the person who tested positive.

Public Health connects with both high- and medium-risk contacts to complete teaching and continues to monitor them for approximately 14 days.

“I just want to remind everyone that testing is open to all people with at least one symptom of COVID-19, even if that symptom is mild,” said Klassen.

As well, testing is open to people who are contacts of or may have been exposed to a confirmed or suspected case, or people who are at risk of exposure to COVID-19 through their employment, such as health care workers, grocery store employees and food processing plants.

There are testing sites operating seven days a week across Huron and Perth.

“Testing is available by appointment so staff at the testing centre can be prepared for your visit and to reduce potential wait times,” said Klassen.

To get tested in Huron-Perth Klassen said people should complete the online assessment tool https://covid-19.ontario.ca/self-assessment/, call their local health care provider or contact Huron Perth Public Health at 1-888-221-2133 ext. 3267 with their Health Card number available.

“Please remember that the COVID-19 test is a snapshot in time, meaning the results are valid on the date that the test was taken,” said Klassen.

“A negative test result today does not rule out the possibility of a positive test result in the future, even the next day. So, if you develop symptoms after a negative test, you should be tested again.”

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.