Tag Archives: Dr Paula Stewart

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

Getting Back to Child Care and Schools COVID-SMART

MEDIA RELEASE: Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit

September 11, 2020

Health Units have had many questions about COVID-19 from families with children attending child care centres, and families with children and youth in schools. 

We already know that COVID-19 is spread through droplets from a cough, sneeze or singing by someone who is infectious to someone who is close to them. This is a good time to remember that the droplets can land up to two metres away and can survive for a few hours on hard surfaces. Symptoms may look like a cold (sore throat, runny nose, cough, fever, headache) or other symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can develop up to 14 days after being infected – usually two to five days.

Public health and school boards are asking parents to use an anonymous online screening tool (also available in printable version) each day to provide direction about what to do if a child is experiencing symptoms. This should become part of your family’s morning routine.  Teachers, school staff and any other individuals entering the school will also be asked to self-screen using the COVID-19 self-assessment tool, and follow its directions.

The Leeds Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit has been working with the Schools Boards in our regions as well as the Eastern Ontario Health Unit to implement the Ministry of Education Guidelines for child care and school re-opening . The Guidelines are based on the key public health measures that have helped us “flatten the curve” and keep cases low in our communities.  We are promoting that people be COVID – SMART to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in all regions – see a link to what this acronym means here: https://healthunit.org/health-information/covid-19/gatherings-social-circles/ 

Preventing and minimizing transmission is our priority. Our case and contact management team is ready 7 days a week to investigate new positive COVID-19 cases and trace who might have been exposed.  Public Health will be involved at every step and are ready to answer questions and offer guidance related to symptoms and testing.  

Public Health will contact all the families of children/youth, as well as teachers and others who might have had close contact (less than 2 metres) with an individual with COVID-19.  Close contacts are required to stay at home for 14 days, or as directed by public health, and will be informed about testing requirements. The school will also activate infection control procedures such as cleaning and disinfection of the classroom and any other affected areas of the school.  Parents of children/youth will be notified that someone has tested positive for COVID-19 in their child care centre or school. 

If there is an outbreak at the school (two or more cases linked from within the school), public health will determine, through investigation, whether class cancellations or school closure are necessary.  The status of cases and outbreaks will be posted on the websites of schools that have a website, school boards and their respective health units. The LGL area will be listed here: https://healthunit.org/health-information/covid-19/local-cases-and-statistics/schools/

“Timely and transparent communication with families and the school community is important to us,” says Dr. Paula Stewart, Medical Officer of Health for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit. “Providing specific guidance to parents if there is a case in a child care centre or school can help respond to people’s concerns.”  

While the child care and school communities will be kept informed through information on the website, it’s important to remember that public health has an obligation to protect the privacy of any individuals who are suspected and confirmed to have COVID-19.

“We also are committed to respecting children’s privacy and ask that people be kind and resist the temptation to speculate about absences or share rumours about possible cases – especially on social media,” Stewart continues. “Kindness and compassion need to be shown at all times.”

For more information on COVID-19 and the re-opening of schools, please visit the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit’s website at https://healthunit.org/health-information/covid-19/schools/ or call 1-866-236-0123.

To view your local school board’s return-to-school plan, visit their website:

-30-

COVID-19 UPDATE FROM MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH – Dr Stewart

The Medical Officer of Health for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark sends out regular updates to the Mayors.  With her permission, I have reprinted this week’s as it contains important information that you may find useful.

  1. Current Situation – We have had a very low number of people living in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark  who have become infected with COVID-19 for June, July and August, none in the past 5 weeks.  This is a direct result of people, businesses and services  following the public health precautions that can prevent the transmission of  COVID-19. The municipalities have played a key role is supporting these measures. Thank you.

It is important not to be complacent. People are still being infected in Ottawa and other parts of Ontario and Canada where we may visit. Also  the virus may still be in our community, either, with individuals who are asymptomatic,  or individuals who have very mild symptoms and have decided not to go for testing.  We are strongly encouraging any one with one of the many possible COVID-19 symptoms) https://healthunit.org/health-information/covid-19/protection/  to go for testing at one of the Assessment Centres in Brockville, Smiths Falls  or Almonte.

Preventing COVID-19 infection in the broader community is key to keeping schools safer.  It is very important for everyone to continue to be COVID SMART.

S – Self-isolate if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Consider getting tested.

M – Wear a mask/cloth face covering  when in enclosed public spaces, and when physical distancing is a challenge outdoors.

A – Avoid touching your face.

R – Remain 2 metres/6 feet apart from people you do not live with and people not in your social circle.

T – Take time for regular hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

  1. Face Covering Mask Instruction – Operators and the community have responded very well to the Medical Officer of Health Instruction on Face Coverings/Mask Use in enclosed public spaces. Initially we had  many people call about the exemptions and whether they needed a doctors/or an exemption card. The answer was no, and our impression is that people who have a medical reason to not wear a face covering/mask are visiting stores at non-peak times or using curb pick up or delivery to protect others.  Later on we received complaints from people that a business wasn’t complying with the Instruction. Each one was contacted and the Instruction clarified.  The community is now familiar with the required face covering/mask Instruction, and this will help as students have to wear face covering/masks in school from grade 4 and  up (also recommend for younger students.)
  2. Community Paramedic Mobile Testing – The work on the Paramedic Mobile Community  Testing Program is progressing well. The Lanark proposal was submitted to East Region Ontario Health for funding last week, and the Leeds-Grenville one will be submitted this week.  Our proposals fit with the Ontario  Health plan for the fall and winter to have both mobile community testing and Assessment Centres, that can assess people with any respiratory illness including influenza, parainfluenza, and RSV – all serious infections that occur each fall and winter. If funded, the mobile testing program will be able to quickly respond to the testing needed in response to an individual with COVID-19 in a school setting.
  3. Influenza Immunization– We are working with our partners on influenza immunization plans for  the fall. The vaccine usually arrives in October.  Influenza vaccine provides good protection against infection, particularly important for anyone with a chronic illness.
  4. School Opening – As the new school year approaches, parents will need to balance various options and make a decision about schooling that makes sense for each family. The Health Unit has collaborated with the Eastern Health Unit (we share Boards of Education) to send a letter to all parents to help them make this decision. I would appreciate if you can share the link to this letter with the parents and others  in your municipalities   https://healthunit.org/wp-content/uploads/Letter_to_Parents_COVID_Schools.pdf

The letter includes a link to the recent European review that suggests the risk of transmission of the virus is low in school settings that have precautions in place. https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/children-and-school-settings-covid-19-transmission.  The report also has  a link to the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto that outlines the lower risk of serious COVID-19 infection among children, and their recommendations for safer opening of schools that the province referenced in their release of the Ministry of Education Guidelines for Schools   https://www.sickkids.ca/PDFs/About-SickKids/81407-COVID19-Recommendations-for-School-Reopening-SickKids.pdf

  1. Stage 3 Openings – Work continues with our many services and businesses to adapt to the provincial Stage 3 Guidelines. We respond to about 50 calls each day for assistance. Our municipalities have been great partners as we navigate these new waters together.

 

Paula Stewart MD, FRCPC, Medical Officer of Health

Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit

Update from Paula Stewart MD, FRCPC, Medical Officer of Health – Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit

As you may be aware, Ottawa has had a significant rise in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 the past week.  Dr Paula Stewart regularly updates the Mayors in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark.  In today’s email, Dr Stewart references the Ottawa concerns and with her permission, I share part of her email.

“We are actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation in Ottawa where there has been  a resurgence in the number of people with COVID-19 since July 18. This is a major concern for our region as many Leeds, Grenville and Lanark  people visit Ottawa for shopping or recreation, health visits, and for connecting with family and friends. While all ages have been affected, the biggest group is the 20 to 39 year olds. Many are linked to large indoor social gatherings or parties, showing how quickly COVID-19 infection can spread among people with close contact.”

We must all continue to practice the public health regimen – frequent hand washing, physical distancing, wearing a face covering and staying home if you are not feeling well – that you have heard many times since March 15.  Ottawa this week and Kingston a few weeks ago are geographically close to us – places that many of us visit for speciality items, doctors and other necessities.  Please be careful and avoid community transmission of COVID-19.

 

Masks Mandatory inside enclosed public spaces as of Tuesday, July 7, 2020 at 12:01am

Local health units announce regional approach to mandatory masks

July 6, 2020

Today Medical Officers of Health from Eastern Ontario Health Unit; Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit; Renfrew County and District Health and Ottawa Public Health announced a regional approach to the use of face coverings/masks in enclosed public places within their respective jurisdictions.

Each public health unit will be issuing an Instruction under the province’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act Stage 2 which states that the person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall operate the business or organization in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including any advice, recommendations or instructions on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.

In Leeds, Grenville and Lanark, this Instruction will require businesses to adopt a policy to ensure facial coverings/masks are worn inside enclosed public spaces/settings that are openly accessible to the public. The Instruction comes into effect as of Tuesday, July 7, 2020 at 12:01am and will be reviewed on September 30, 2020. The LGLDHU, to support implementation of this Instruction, will provide information and consultation to operators of enclosed indoor spaces. This directive is to be primarily used to educate people on facial covering/mask use in enclosed public spaces where 2-metre physical distancing cannot always be maintained.

As the province continues to reopen, there are increased opportunities for people to have close contact with others in enclosed public spaces. This could lead to an increased risk of potential spread of COVID-19, especially indoors or confined spaces where there is minimal airflow, higher concentrations of people, and an increased chance of sharing high-touch surfaces.

Evidence shows that wearing a mask or face covering, such as a bandana, scarf or cloth that covers the mouth and nose, can help contain the spread of COVID-19 when used in combination with staying home when ill, frequent handwashing and practicing physical distancing. Facial coverings/masks that cover your mouth, nose, and chin help to prevent respiratory droplets from your mouth and nose from reaching others or landing on surfaces.

“We have learned over the course of this pandemic that we have to get ahead of the COVID19 virus – it is very infections and can spread easily among people with close contact in enclosed spaces. Most people do not have immunity to COVID-19 and some people may experience no symptoms but still be able to spread the virus,” says Dr. Paula Stewart, Medical Officer of Health. “We have been recommending the use of face coverings/masks in enclosed indoor spaces for many weeks. With the increase in opportunities for people to be indoors in public spaces with others, now this is the time to add facial covering/mask use to the existing requirements for operators of indoor public spaces. Each person wearing a facial covering/mask says I am protecting you. We all need to reciprocate this behaviour – it is social responsibility.”

The Health Unit has staff answering COVID-19 related questions and concerns for the public from 8:30am to 4:30pm every day at 1-800-660-5853 extension 2499. Public Health Inspectors are also available to discuss environmental health concerns. You can also get more information about COVID-19 by visiting www.healthunit.org/coronavirus or by connecting with LGLHealthUnit on Facebook and Twitter.

-30-