“We cannot be complacent.” That was the message from Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit in an April 1 media briefing.
He was referring to the relatively low day-to-day increase in the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Simcoe Muskoka. As of April 1 there have been 62 confirmed cases in all of Simcoe Muskoka, and just three in Huntsville.
“I do believe we are under-measuring the number of community[-acquired] cases, because the emphasis so far to date has been on looking for travel-related cases and so the community-acquired cases that are being picked up are the severe cases, the ones that are being hospitalized. I suspect there are many others that aren’t being tested and we aren’t picking up. It speaks to the fact that there is community transmission happening and therefore people need to take their precautions to avoid transmission,” he said.
He reminds everyone that anyone who is ill should be staying home.
“It’s very important that those that are ill stay in self-isolation and not expose others in the community. By self-isolation, I mean you stay home. You don’t go out or leave your property at all,” he said. “And even in your home, you need to be separated from other people who are well. Preferably you have your own room, you have your own washroom…and those individuals [in the home]need to be monitoring themselves for symptoms and if we have approached your household because you have a positive test result, then those individuals will end up being in self-isolation as well.”
Anyone who develops severe symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, should be assessed at an emergency department.
He also reminded anyone who has returned from travel out of country within the last 14 days that they need to immediately enter self-isolation—no stopping anywhere for any reason on the way home—and remain there for 14 days. They can only come out self-isolation if they are still well at the end of those 14 days. “That is now prescribed under the federal Quarantine Act and will be enforced,” said Dr. Gardner.
Because this is a new virus and it is unknown whether it will follow the patterns of other respiratory infections, people should be prepared to take containment measures for some time, perhaps months.
“It is a respiratory virus and it falls in the coronavirus family. Typically those viruses decline with warmer weather into the summer,” said Dr. Gardner. “It is possible that it will decline into the summer and then entirely likely that it would return again in the fall. Many of us believe, and the projections on this, the mathematical modelling on this, suggest that it will recur in waves and that we will need strategies in place to deal with those waves as they return until we have a vaccine or other means of truly bringing it under control in our population. So it may be gone in the summer or it may not. It is a new virus so we cannot know for sure at this time.”
He acknowledge the burden people carry under current controls.
“The controls we have in place right now are a tremendous hardship to society and to us all and to the economy and to people’s livelihoods… It’s extremely hard on us all and hard to sustain. In the end it rests with the provincial government to decide when to lift such restrictions. In my mind, it would make sense for them to do that in keeping with the epidemiology that we’ll see. So if we get to the point like China, where indeed it’s been brought well under control and the numbers [of new cases] are very low…then that would be the time for them, I think, to start looking at easing controls but they would have to keep a close eye even then on what’s happening for the potential for recurrence,” he said. “…no one can know for sure, but we may very well be into this for a very long time, with it waxing and waning, and with our controls in place and our controls easing up and then potentially going back into place.”
For more local news and updates on the COVID-19 pandemic in Huntsville, check our COVID-19 page regularly.
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