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Klassen appreciates politicians following Public Health recommendations during pandemic

HURON-PERTH – With the addition of seven new cases, the total cumulative cases across Huron-Perth have now reached 642. Three people are hospitalized in the region due to COVID-19 symptoms and there are 87 active cases.

The outbreak at Listowel Memorial Hospital continues with five patients and nine staff having tested positive. Dr. Miriam Klassen, Huron-Perth medical officer of health, said the outbreak is under control.

Five long-term care homes across the region have active outbreaks. Braemar Retirement Centre in Wingham, Caressant Care in Listowel and Hillside Manor in Perth East have one staff member each who has tested positive. Knollcrest Lodge in Milverton has two positive cases in staff and Exeter Villa in Exeter has four residents and five staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Cedarcroft Place Retirement Home in Stratford remains in outbreak but there are no new cases to report.

“I’m hopeful we’re going to be able to declare several of these outbreaks over while still in 2020,” said Klassen on Tuesday.

Long-term care and retirement home health care workers continue to receive COVID-19 vaccines through the London Health Sciences Centre in partnership with Middlesex Public Health Unit, Southwestern Public Health Unit and Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH).

“All of this is still phase one of the vaccine distribution plans,” she said.

“We’re very excited for the local healthcare workers who are part of this momentous moment in the pandemic.”

She emphasized this is just the beginning of the vaccine program and at this time only a few members of priority populations have received vaccinations, so it remains essential that everyone in the community continues to follow all Public Health measures. She reminded residents to limit contact to people within their household, wear a face covering, maintain a two-metre distance from anyone who is not in their direct household, wash their hands frequently and stay home if they are feeling ill.

“I’m sure you’ve all noticed the large increase in our cases,” she said.

“On Christmas Day we had over 30 – that was the largest single-day count we have experienced in Huron-Perth … The pandemic is not under control in Huron-Perth and while we are excited to start getting vaccines in arms, people need to continue to do all the other measures to bend this curve again.”

The Moderna vaccine will soon be available in Ontario and Klassen said HPPH is making preparations to receive it.

She said North Perth is still a hot spot for transmission but reminded residents cases are happening everywhere in the region.

“We have seen the numbers starting to go up and it didn’t surprise me that they jumped,” she said.

“We had over 30 cases on Christmas day … those reflect transmission which as happening two weeks prior so we continue to urge everybody to behave as though everybody they come into contact with could be transmitting COVID-19.”

Klassen was asked how she feels seeing people such as Randy Hillier, independent MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, tweeting photos of themselves having large Christmas gatherings and not following Public Health recommendations.

She replied that she has had to make sacrifices herself, spending Christmas with only her husband and not being able to have the family gathering with her children she would have liked.

“There was no-one in our home and we didn’t go to anyone else’s home,” said Klassen.

“I certainly missed the traditions and the time spent with family that I normally enjoy. I know that health unit staff and I … worked on Christmas Day and Boxing Day responding to all these cases and contacts, working very hard to get them into isolation and to mitigate spread.”

She said she appreciates that local leadership at municipal, provincial and federal levels have been co-operative and helpful with HPPH during the pandemic.

“It is difficult when you observe others that you think maybe could be doing more … but certainly I’ve appreciated the local leadership stepping up, sharing messages and taking the Public Health measures themselves,” said Klassen.

Colin Burrowes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Listowel Banner. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.