Huntsville to date has had just four laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean that the coronavirus isn’t out in the community.
There have been 12 cases reported so far across Muskoka—six in Gravenhurst, four in Huntsville and two in Muskoka Lakes—and for the first time this week one, a woman in her 60s in Gravenhurst, was determined to be a community-acquired infection. Most of the others have contracted the virus while travelling or are close contacts of people who had acquired the virus during travel. One is still under investigation.
But that doesn’t mean that other municipalities in Muskoka can rest easy. “I think it’s much more helpful to assume that [the virus] is everywhere, because you don’t want to wait until you have documented cases for sure in every community to take precautions everywhere,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU medical officer of health, in a media briefing on April 8. “Everybody everywhere now needs to take these precautions of physical distancing, therefore I wouldn’t want people to conclude that this is only a problem in Gravenhurst and not the case elsewhere in Muskoka. I think it’s much safer for everybody in Muskoka to assume that they have community transmission…”
He noted that there is now increased capacity in the province for testing and that the Ontario Government may soon change the criteria for those who can be tested.
But even with increased testing, Dr. Gardner has said repeatedly that the laboratory-confirmed cases being reported are just the tip of the iceberg, and that no one can be certain that they or anyone they meet are not transmitting the virus. Someone—including you—could be infected and have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
The health unit urges everyone to consider carefully whether or not they need to go out into the community, to limit those forays to only what’s necessary, maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from anyone they encounter, abide by the restrictions that have been put in place, wash their hands frequently, and avoid touching their face.
Homemade cloth masks can be used in places where physical distancing is harder to achieve, in particular to help the wearer prevent transmission if they are infectious and don’t know it. It is still no substitute for physical distancing and handwashing, Dr. Gardner has noted in pastbriefings.
He has also advised against wearing gloves outside of medical settings, in part because people tend not to wash them and can still transfer the virus from gloved hands to their face. Frequent handwashing is the best option for the general public.
With Easter weekend just a few days away, Dr. Gardner again urged people to stay home and not gather with their loved ones.
“I can sympathize with the sentiment. I would love to do the same,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t want to unwittingly infect someone in his family if he happens to be carrying the virus, and recommends that others think the same way. “It’s very, very difficult. It’s very unpleasant and it feels very unnatural, but people need to [not gather] to protect themselves and protect each other and help to bring this pandemic to a close.”
He also said that he is still concerned with the number of people not remaining at their primary residences.
“In Muskoka, a major concern has been people coming from out of the city…to the north to their cottages or to cottages they’ve rented as a way of isolating, and the potential for that to make an excessive draw on their resources, on their shopping, potentially exposing people through that means to the virus or making an excessive draw on the healthcare system as they become cases and have to be admitted.”
Stay up to date on local news related to the pandemic on Doppler’s COVID-19 page.
(Mask image courtesy of rawpixel.)
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