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Over 100 Huron Perth residents tested for COVID-19, still only two confirmed cases

‘We know that COVID-19 is transmitting in our neighbouring communities … I call on everyone to take our public health recommendations seriously,’ says Dr. Miriam Klassen

By Colin Burrowes

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PERTH COUNTY – During a Huron Perth Public Heath update on March 24, Dr. Miriam Klassen, medical officer of health, announced that 101 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Huron Perth. Of those people, 73 were negative, 26 are pending and two were confirmed to have the virus.

The two people who are confirmed cases share a home in St. Marys, with a man in his 60s remaining in critical condition.

“I really want to call on all residents to follow the current public health recommendations,” said Klassen. “We know that COVID-19 is transmitting in our neighbouring communities … I call on everyone to take our public health recommendations seriously.”

She told people to maintain at least a six-foot space away from others. Dr. Klassen said people need to self-isolate if they have returned from travel or if they are sick. She also mentioned that people must wash their hands often and limit group gatherings. For the complete list of recommendation visit HPPH.ca.

“It is possible that if people do not follow these directions, governments will have to implement more restrictive measures,” said Dr. Klassen. “If you are concerned about a person’s action in the community, HPPH encourages you to have a respectful conversation with that person from a distance and remind them about the current recommendations for stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our community. They may not be familiar with them.”

Due to limited testing capacity around the world, not every symptomatic person in Huron Perth can be tested for the virus at this time. Testing has been focused on priority populations. It is important that everyone take any symptoms of cough, fever and shortness of breath seriously.

“HPPH recommends that if you become sick with COVID-19-type symptoms, self-isolate immediately and seek additional guidance using the province’s online assessment tool or by calling your primary healthcare provider,” she said.

In Huron Perth, health care providers are using a virtual assessment model by phone and they will advise you what to do. In the Listowel area, residents can call the North Perth Family Health Team at 519-291-4200 and in the Wingham area call residents can call the North Huron Family Health Team at 519-357-3930 or call Huron Perth Public Health at 1-888-221-2133 ext. 3267.

“If you have to go to the emergency room or your doctor’s office, make sure you have called ahead,” said Dr. Klassen.

Dr. Klassen spoke highly of Huron Perth’s decision to use virtual assessment centres instead of setting up physical assessment centres like some other regions.

“I think it’s really great,” she said. “I think that our primary care providers organized together and realized they could provide these assessments virtually which cuts down on people’s need to travel, keeps them at home which is in line with provincial direction. It doesn’t use up personal protective equipment, it doesn’t bring people together risking further infection so I think it’s really an excellent model and it was approved by our Ontario Health West Regional Table.”

Klassen also said Waterloo Region Public Health has made the HPPH aware of a confirmed case of COVID-19 who attended an event at the Seaforth Ag Hall on the evening of March 14.

As part of contact tracing, WRPH will directly contact any known close contacts of the case, including contacts who may have attended the event. However, anyone who attended the event is asked to self-monitor for symptoms, especially fever, cough or shortness of breath.

It is recommended that people encourage others to visit credible websites such as HPPH.ca and avoid sharing unconfirmed information on social media.

For people who are worried that some of the businesses who have remained open are not essential, Ontario.ca has a list of essential workplaces.

“In general, if someone is violating a provincial order, it is the police who enforce those orders,” she said.

Klassen said she never would have predicted she would be dealing with a pandemic.

“It’s not like anything in the memory of our generation or recent history,” she said. “There are all kinds of people advising our government including health experts who are providing the best scientific evidence and applying previous experience in other epidemics and how infectious diseases behave. I think we are on the right track.”