Klassen says reduced case testing, focus on high-risk settings will transition COVID-19 pandemic into endemic

HURON-PERTH – With the province’s public health units undergoing changes in the ways in which they record and test for positive cases of COVID-19, Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) Medical Officer of Health Dr. Miriam Klassen says that the methodology will ultimately transition the pandemic into an endemic.

As of Jan. 10, there were 1,165 active cases of COVID-19 in the region, an increase of 126 from the previous day of reporting. There have been six new deaths in Huron-Perth, bringing the cumulative total up to 76 fatalities since the onset of the pandemic approximately 22 months ago.

Klassen said during her bi-weekly media update on Jan. 5 that public health units will not be informed of all new cases moving forward. Testing will be prioritized to symptomatic or high-risk cases to help contend against the Omicron variant, now the dominant strain of COVID-19.

Every new case will not be reported or detected because not everyone is getting tested for it, with those showing symptoms asked to self-isolate for a period of time based on their circumstances.

“So this means that the number of people in Huron and Perth who actually have COVID-19 is much higher than we are reporting,” said Klassen last Wednesday. “And that’s of course true across the province.”

Klassen added that HPPH’s new focus would be on higher-risk settings such as long-term care or retirement homes, as well as congregate living facilities, all of which are currently experiencing a number of outbreaks throughout the region. As of Monday, there were four active long-term care outbreaks in the region, five retirement home outbreaks (including two staff cases at Listowel’s Caressant Care) and one hospital outbreak at Stratford General Hospital (one patient, one staff member).

Four people are currently hospitalized in the region due to COVID-19.

“This is moving us one step closer to what we call an endemic approach, rather than an aggressive case and contact management approach,” she said. “We’re now having a focused approach, which is what we typically use… every winter in climates like ours, that’s respiratory virus season. We don’t normally test and diagnose every single person who has symptoms (of other ailments) – we all know this. We are using our resources to target higher-risk settings and higher-risk individuals.

“It’s a big change, and it’s one that we’re all going to have to adjust to.”

Klassen maintained that as in the past with other respiratory or gastro-intestinal ailments, the best way to limit their transmission is to stay home when symptoms arise.

“What we think is going to happen is that it’s going to be a very quick, rapid up in cases. And hopefully also a fairly rapid down,” she said. “And also it’s going to bring us to the point where more of the population is going to have some level of immunity. And that will really help break those chains of transmission.”