October Public Health Municipal Update from dr paula stewart

In Leeds, Grenville and Lanark area,  one or two people each day are newly diagnosed with COVID-19. Household members have then become infected in some situations. Many of these people have become infected in other areas, including Ottawa. Given the current high levels of infection elsewhere in the province and in Canada, the public health message is to consider if it is necessary to travel outside our region, and to limit visits by family members and friends living in high risk areas, including college and university students.  If those visits do occur then ensure physical distancing is in place at all times, and use a mask/face covering when inside. Based on the experience in Ottawa, and elsewhere in the province, it is critical to avoid social gatherings with people outside our household to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection.

To date we have had  two schools where one or more people have tested positive for COVID-19. Excellent collaboration with parents, students, the school and the Board of Education led to a swift response which limited further spread in the school. Schools are working hard to provide a safe, healthy environment for students and staff.

Public Health has provided input into many public  events that are being developed by municipalities, businesses or other organizations. Going forward we would like to know about all public events so we can ensure that the organizers are adhering to all requirements in Regulation 364/20, including following Public Health Instruction.

The Health Unit will be using guidance from the Chief Medical Officer of Health to prepare resources for upcoming celebrations (including Halloween and Remembrance Day). The Halloween key messages are:

·         Virtual gatherings or events are safest

·         Outdoor gatherings or events are safer than indoors.

§  Consider fun and creative alternatives to trick or treating, like scavenger hunts and walks to look at neighbourhood decorations or having a themed dinner with household contacts.

§  If you choose to participate in trick or treating:

o   Only go out with members of your direct household

  • Wear a mask/face covering that fits properly – a costume mask is not a substitute for a face covering.
  • Stay 2 metres apart and don’t congregate or linger at doorsteps
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer
  • Consider creative ways to hand out treats so that children aren’t reaching into a bucket or bowl to grab treats

§  No matter how you choose to celebrate Halloween, the key is to be COVID-SMART. Resources  will be available on our Website shortly.  

The recent provincial restrictions to restaurants, gyms, the entertainment sector etc. in Ottawa and elsewhere may have a spillover effect in our communities. People from Ottawa may want to come to services in our area, and businesses may see the restriction in Ottawa as an opportunity to draw people to our area. It is critical that strong public health precautions be in place to reduce the risk, if this occurs.

The Mobile Community Paramedic Program for Lanark, and for Leeds, Grenville, has successfully provided local testing for COVID-19 in several communities. Thank you to the municipalities who facilitated the testing. We will be looking for indoor sites for mobile testing in colder weather. 

Recently, the amount of testing for COVID-19  being done in the province superseded the ability of the laboratory system.   The Ministry of Health has identified who can be tested for COVID-19. Asymptomatic people who don’t need to be tested as part of a provincial program or who have not been directed to be tested by public health will no longer be tested at an Assessment Centre or at a mobile testing site.  Appointments are now required for all tests.

The provincial government has now mandated face covering/mask use in businesses and organizations.  The Medical Officer of Health Instruction on Face Coverings/Mask Use in Enclosed Public Spaces will facilitate adherence to this new provincial direction. 

Subsection 4 in the Regulation 364/20:  the person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall ensurethat any person in the indoor area of the premises of the business or organization, or in a vehicle that is operating as part of the business or organization, wears a mask or face covering in a manner that covers their mouth, nose and chin during any period when they are in the indoor area, unless the person:

·         performs work for the business or organization, and is in an area that is not accessible to members of the public and is able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person while in the indoor area or the employee or agent is within or behind a physical barrier.

·         Other Exceptions Included. https://healthunit.org/health-information/covid-19/face-coverings-masks/

Paula Stewart MD, FRCPC

Medical Officer of Health

Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health