Testing Centres are not drop-in services, says Dr. Mariam Klassen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
HURON-PERTH – As of April 23, Huron-Perth Public Health says 1,179 COVID-19 tests have been performed in the area with 39 residents testing positive, 881 results returning negative and 259 tests still pending.
Dr. Miriam Klassen, Medical Officer of Health for Huron-Perth, said the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Huron-Perth remains at four but the number of residents who have recovered has risen to 22.
The number of people with negative results are primarily people who showed symptoms.
“That’s a reminder there are still other organisms circulating,” said Klassen. “We’ve had other outbreaks in long-term care homes recently. We’ve had influenza, rhinovirus, the routine coronavirus (the non-COVID-19 coronavirus), so there are still respiratory viruses circulating.”
This week the province released an updated plan for increased testing at long-term care homes.
“I can tell you we’re working with our local health care and long-term partners to roll out this increased testing of residents and staff,” said Klassen. “We will be prioritizing homes with outbreaks and those homes identified as potentially at higher risk but eventually plan to get through all the homes.”
Swabs are being collected at the Listowel and Wingham Hospitals Alliance emergency departments, Huron-Perth Healthcare Alliance emergency departments, in Goderich at the hospital on weekends and at the collection centre at the Knights of Columbus hall during the week.
“It is important for residents to remember it is not a drop-in service,” said Klassen. “You must have a referral from a healthcare provider and an appointment at that site.”
She said the newest positive cases in Huron-Perth have all been related to previous cases.
“This is encouraging news when we can trace the case to another as opposed to it just popping up in the community,” she said. “It does suggest we’re getting down to recognizable chains of transmission.”
However, she emphasized the message from the Ontario government that precautions such as physical distancing should not be eased up yet. The province is extending all emergency orders which have been put in place until at least May 6.
“This includes closure of outdoor amenities, parks and recreational areas, non-essential workplaces, bars and restaurants, restrictions on social gatherings and limiting staff from working in more than one retirement home or long-term care home,” said Klassen.
Klassen added, “I recognize the challenges and difficulties everyone has faced in the last several weeks and I’m proud and grateful for the resiliency and determination of Huron-Perth residents at this time and the way I see people supporting on another. We are making a difference and we will get through this.”
When asked to comment on the reason the number of infections among staff members has continued to rise, while the number of infections amongst residents has remained the same at Greenwood Court, Klassen said she could not say for certain but it was possibly because protocols introduced such as universal masking, more intensive sanitizing and isolation have been working and are stopping the transmission of the virus to the residents.
She also mentioned that cases amongst health care workers are not always acquired in a health care setting.
“These are also people who are going home and doing grocery shopping and having other interactions, so sometimes people are acquiring it and then – I’m not saying that this is what happened – but it is possible to reintroduce from another source, so it’s complicated,” she said.
Klassen said it appears the last two staff members to test positive were related to the previous Greenwood Court outbreak but the investigations into the cases are still ongoing.
According to Klassen, data from around the world to date show that approximately 80 per cent of people who test positive will not require any hospital care.
“So, of the people who have tested positive only about 20 per cent may need care including hospitalization or ICU hospitalization,” said Klassen.
That number does not include people who did not get tested or whose symptoms were so mild they were not recognized.
“There are many people who get the illness who will recover,” she said. “The problem is because the entire population has no immunity … if the transmission were just to take off you would still see a lot of sickness and a lot of death just from sheer numbers.”
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