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New Tecumseth case tests positive for COVID-19

March 26, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Simcoe Muskoka Public Health Unit reported its 10th confirmed case of COVID-19 on Monday – a New Tecumseth women in her 60s who recently travelled overseas.

She developed symptoms following a trip in the Middle East to Israel, Jordan, and Egypt over a week ago and sought testing at the Headwaters Health Hospital in Orangeville.

She has since been recovering at home in New Tecumseth and the local health unit said there isn’t any community contact of concern.

“The timing, the onset of her symptoms are such that we’re not concerned about her flight being an area of exposure for her to others,” local health unit Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner told reporters at a briefing on Monday.

While this case is travel related, Dr. Gardner said there have been three “community acquired” cases in Simcoe Muskoka.

“That really speaks to the importance of people…being aware that it is being transmitted in our community and they need to take the precautions that we’ve spoken to in order to safeguard themselves and safeguard others from becoming infected.”

To “flatten the curve,” which means to reduce the incoming peak of active cases, Dr. Gardner stressed the importance of abiding by social distancing practices.

“Through that, we can really reduce the transmission in our community and keep the numbers as low as possible to avoid overwhelming our healthcare system, and to avoid the tragic circumstances that have happened in Italy and certain other European countries,” he noted.

In addition to keeping two meters distance from other people, Dr. Gardner said hand washing, avoiding crowds, and avoiding interaction with ill individuals is important for reducing COVID-19’s spread.

“It is really up to us all at this point to abide by the social distancing practices to flatten the curve – keep this pandemic under control during this very difficult time,” he remarked.

If anyone is returning from travel, has symptoms develop, or been in contact with a confirmed case, they should self isolate at home for 14 days or wait until 24 hours after they fully recover, Dr. Gardner told the Times.

Testing for accurate numbers of those currently infected with COVID-19 remains a challenge, as the province’s testing capacity isn’t large enough to meet the present demand.

“At this point in time, unless they’re a healthcare worker or unless they develop severe symptoms, they probably aren’t going to be prioritized for testing, but they should definitely remain in isolation,” Dr. Gardner explained.

“The really key thing isn’t so much testing them all, it’s that they be isolated while they’re recovering.”

Dr. Gardner said while COVID-19 tests are delayed due to the volume being received by Ontario’s Public Health Laboratory System, he gives them credit for completing more testing than what’s been done so far in all of the United States; although they are working diligently with other hospital laboratories to build up the province’s capacity to do testing faster.

When looking at an end-date for social distancing measures and a return to normalcy, Dr. Gardner said it’s a new virus so no one can know for sure, but from looking at pandemics of the past, it could be a few months to over a year.

“Typically, influenza pandemics, such as the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 lasted in three waves over a year and a half.” he noted. “It came in the winter-spring, it lapsed in the summer, it returned in the fall and then it returned again the following spring.

“So, we could be in this, in repeated waves for months, maybe a year. I certainly hope not, but I think we have to think in terms of how can we get through something like that collectively together,” Dr. Gardner added.

Efforts to create a vaccine are at least a year away so, in the meantime, social distancing is the best way to prevent the disease, he said.

In terms of the absolute number of cases, Wuhan in China, Italy, and now Spain are examples of how bad it can get.

Dr. Gardner said there’s a lot that can be done to ensure that doesn’t happen in Canada.

“I’m well aware that places such as Italy have gone into complete lockdown where they’ve taken it to a much greater degree, people are not allowed out of their homes unless they are going to shop for food or medications and that is enforced by police – that is certainly the extreme,” he explained.

“Germany right now is looking to prohibit more than one individual within two meters of each other out in the community and enforcing it. So clearly there is much more that can be done if it needs to be done. My message would be let’s do all we can with what we have now, with the measures we have enforced now to avoid having to go there,” Dr. Gardner added.

If everyone collectively does their part to reduce the spread, the height of the virus’ impact can be reduced, resulting in a faster and smoother transition back to normalcy.

“We need to act now with our public health measures to flatten the curve and do what we can to blunt transmission so that we don’t get this huge surge that exceeds the ability of the healthcare system to respond,” Dr. Gardner stressed. “Our case survival rates will be much better if we can avoid a big surge because it’s a big surge that makes it very difficult to treat those with complications, if you’re exceeding the capacity of the system.”


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