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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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