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New Tecumseth keeping COVID-19 cases low

August 13, 2020   ·   0 Comments

New Tecumseth has remained on a path towards eliminating COVID-19 since the start of July.

Over the last month, transmission of the virus has slowed down significantly in the community and there’s only three individuals currently infected, which means 95 per cent of cases are now recovered.

There’s only been one case locally in the month of August, recorded Monday, and the rate of infection continues to decline, but the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) stressed the importance of people not letting their guard down.

“We could very well have future waves of COVID-19, so we need to continue all of those control measures because we lack immunity against this virus,” said Dr. Gardner, SMDHU Chief Medical Officer of Health.

A recent study published by Public Health Ontario shows about one per cent of Ontario’s population has antibodies that indicate they’ve had COVID-19 and are now immune.

“This is actually in keeping with another study that had been done recently by the Canadian Blood Services for all of Canada,” Dr. Gardner noted.

“We now have two studies that show about one per cent of our population has developed immunity against COVID-19 and this is perhaps, for here in Simcoe Muskoka, that would be about 10 times the number of cases that we actually picked up with our standard testing.”

This would mean there could have been over 6,500 people who have had COVID-19 in the region, instead of the over 650 cases SMDHU has captured so far.

The Public Health Ontario study did show some variability in the incidence of infection depending on what region of the province they were testing.

In Northern Ontario, only 0.3 per cent of the population had COVID-19, while the central east region of Ontario, which includes Simcoe Muskoka, was a little higher than the province’s average, at 1.5 per cent.

“The Central east region includes some much larger municipalities to the south of us, York and Peel and Durham, which we know have had higher rates of COVID-19,” Dr. Gardner said.

Larger municipalities had as much as four times the amount of COVID-19 case compared to Simcoe Muskoka.

The one per cent figure from the Public Health Ontario study is a positive indicator, according to Dr. Gardner.

“That’s a very low rate of infection, 99 per cent of our population has been spared from being infected with COVID-19,” he said. “This speaks to the effectiveness of the responses we’ve taken throughout Ontario to control COVID-19 – the success of everybody’s work together in flattening the curve.”

On the other hand, just one per cent of the population being infected means 99 per cent of people are still vulnerable.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 deaths have been a point of controversy for the public.

Many are critical of how they’re being reported by health units, as deaths where someone is infected with COVID-19 are attributed to the virus, even if it’s not the direct cause of death.

Dr. Gardner said it’s important to note the majority of people who die from COVID-19 have other pre-existing medical conditions that would contribute to their passing. The majority of deaths in Simcoe Muskoka have been seniors in long-term care facilities.

“It’s always going to be complicated with determining cause of death given there’s more than one thing happening at once in those cases,” Dr. Gardner explained.

“I wouldn’t be critical of erring on the side of reporting cases that have ended with death, whether or not its clear COVID-19 was the actual cause.”

Simcoe Muskoka saw its first death since May 16 last week after nearly three months of no fatalities, bringing the total deaths to 37. The women who passed was in her 80s and living at Georgian Residence.

In terms of mental health, many Ontarians are experiencing pandemic fatigue or have developed a case of the COVID Blues.

Dr. Gardner said its always important to consider the mental health and physical impacts of COVID-19 control measures when creating policies.

“We know there’s a lot of harm beyond the virus itself associated with this situation that we’re living in, anxiety about our future and about the restrictions on our lives and how long this will go on,” he noted.

Unemployment, a weak economy and fear of infection can all lead to poor mental health, said Dr. Gardner.

In the near future SMDHU will release a review covering the mitigation of harms associated with Simcoe Muskoka’s COVID-19 outbreak. Impacts on substance abuse, family difficulties, anxiety and physical activity or diet will be included.

“We’ve identified in that review there’s a bunch of things we need to be doing as an agency to try and improve things, by no means can we do this alone, it’s going to be a whole of societal response, just like it is to the virus,” Dr. Gardner said.

“We’re asking ourselves as an agency what else can we be doing?”

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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