Though students and teachers head back to school in less than three weeks, there’s still no plan for what must be done if a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19.
Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said today the health unit is still waiting on a document from the province that all health units must follow in the event there’s a positive COVID case at a school.
“Time grows short, I agree,” Gardner noted during a media briefing today. “Ideally we would have it now, if not, a little while in the past. The later it comes, the more challenging it is for us.”
Gardner said there are other health care leaders and family physicians who play a role in the response to COVID in schools, and they too await instructions.
“We have a lot of interest right now among physicians and health care leaders about what would be expected,” said Gardner.
Though the health unit is still awaiting the province’s direction on outbreak management for schools, Gardner said the health unit will still be able to do case contact management in the interim.
Communication, however, might be a little different. The health unit will face a lot of questions from parents should one or more COVID cases be confirmed at a school.
“We will have to be proactive,” said Gardner.
The health unit has received word from the province they will receive enough funding to hire 20 more nurses for direct outreach to schools. Gardner said each nurse would be assigned a group of schools where they would be public health resources to field calls and follow-up and assist with any investigation.
“We don’t have the funding yet,” said Gardner, noting the health unit had to be cautious about recruiting and hiring the nurses without the funding in hand.
In the meantime, the health unit has been working with leadership at the region’s school boards to plan for back-to-school. On the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit website, a new page dedicated to “return to school” provides resources, frequently asked questions, and strategies for students, teachers and staff – all advice with the endorsement of the health unit.
The same information will be provided by the health unit to parents and guardians through their child’s school.
“The safe return to school is at the forefront of everyone’s minds right now and we know that it has been difficult to make decisions about whether to send your child or children to school or have them do on-line learning,” said Gardner, in a press release sent out by the health unit. “Everyone’s situation is different, and the decision to send your children to school in person needs to be one that works for you and your family.”
Gardner reiterated school is important for students, and though there is a risk of transmission for COVID at school, not returning to school also does not completely eliminate that risk.
“There is no risk-free option with COVID-19 and it would be unrealistic to think that we can get through the next few months without some risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the school classroom,” said Gardner.
New COVID cases reported in the region are at an all-time low, with just four new cases in the last seven days.
“We’ve not been that low on cases since we first started … our first case was March 11,” said Gardner. “That’s a real milestone for us.”
According to the health unit website there are ten active, lab-confirmed cases in Simcoe County. Though there are two people hospitalized in the region, neither is in an intensive care unit.
For more information on the back-to-school plans for masking, screening, physical distancing, and sanitation, visit the health unit website.
'It can be COVID-19 when it's just sniffles': Ottawa's top doctor – CTV Edmonton
Ottawa’s top doctor is defending the Ottawa Public Health isolation warning for anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19, saying “we have seen it can be COVID-19 when it’s just sniffles.”
And Ottawa Public Health is requesting a scientific review of the COVID-19 symptoms to clarify who should and should not be isolating during the pandemic.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches faced questions at Council one day after invoking a Class Section 22 Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. It states that people must self-isolate for 14 days if they:
- Test positive for COVID-19
- Has signs or symptoms of COVID-19
- Are in close contact with someone who has tested positive for novel coronavirus
- Are waiting for the results of COVID-19 test
- Have reasonable grounds to think they have COVID-19
Failure to comply with this order could result in a fine of up to $5,000 for every day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.
Dr. Etches told Council that she understands people want clarity on what the order means, adding it was issued with goal of keeping schools and businesses open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I do want to go back to the goal here; which is we want to keep schools open, we want to make sure people can go to work. And right now we’re in a time where the number of infections in our community is high, so high that it’s effecting schools,” said Dr. Etches.
“We want to turn that around.”
Ottawa Public Health has requested a scientific review of the COVID-19 symptoms.
“The goal is: when people have symptoms or respiratory illness, we need to make sure it’s not COVID. I do understand that people have questions, ‘what if it’s sniffles, it’s just sniffles.’ We’re asking for a scientific review of the symptoms,” said Dr. Etches Wednesday morning.
“Right now, we have seen it can be COVID when it’s just sniffles.”
The Renfrew County and District Health Unit has said a staff member at Fellowes High School in Pembroke that tested positive for COVID-19 thought the symptoms were seasonal allergies. The school has been closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak since last Wednesday.
“When COVID enters the house with someone with symptoms, it’s very hard not to pass that on with someone in the house,” said Dr. Etches.
“So that’s the root of why we ask a family to stay home when someone has symptoms, because it could be COVID and it could spread in the house and then pass on.”
Ottawa Public Health lists the COVID-19 symptoms as:
Classic symptoms: Feeling feverish, new or worsening cough and/or difficulty breathing
Other symptoms: Sore throat, difficulty swallowing, new olfactory (smell) or taste disorder, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, pneumonia, runny nose, or nasal congestion
Code Red for COVID-19: Ottawa's top doctor warns COVID status "close" to most severe level – CTV Edmonton
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb in Ottawa, the medical officer of health is on the verge of moving Ottawa’s COVID-10 overall status to the most severe warning level during the pandemic.
“We are close to ‘Red,'” said Dr. Vera Etches when asked during Wednesday’s Council meeting about the current COVID-19 status in Ottawa.
The medical officer of health also warned that Ottawa could introduce a “targeted approach” to new restrictions and closures if the COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
The Ottawa Public Health coloured coded system indicates the status of COVID-19 in Ottawa by “Green,” “Yellow,” “Orange” and “Red.” Ottawa is currently in the “Orange” status for COVID-19, one step below the most severe level of the COVID-19 status.
The “Orange” status signals decreasing spread and few outbreaks, some hospital capacity and some health care worker infections. A “Red” status means “increasing spread and outbreaks. Limited hospital capacity and many health care worker infections. Limited or no ability to isolate cases/quarantine”
“We’ve spoken about whether we’re ‘Red’ now. Why I have not moved us into red as a global assessment is because our hospitalizations have stayed stable. This is good news, right?” said Dr. Etches.
“So the people who are testing positive are younger on the whole, so we’re not seeing the more serious complications that lead to hospitalizations.”
Ottawa Public Health reported 65 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the second highest one-day total of COVID-19 cases in September. On Tuesday, a record 93 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Ottawa.
Councillor Diane Deans asked Dr. Etches if it’s possible for Ottawa to avoid the Code “Red” status.
“I have a lot of confidence that the people of Ottawa can do this. We can turn the curve because we have done it before.”
“I don’t want to have to shut things down”: Dr. Etches
During Wednesday’s Council meeting, Councillor Mathieu Fleury asked Dr. Etches about the possibility of new closures and restrictions due to the rising number of cases. Dr. Etches said Ottawa Public Health would take a “targeted approach” to addressing possible sources of COVID-19.
“We will risk going into having to do more closures if we don’t turn the curve,” said Dr. Etches.
“I’m not interested in creating more economic damage. That harms our health as a population; we need to keep places open that are employing people. We’ll need to take a targeted approach if there is a type of business that’s causing more challenges.”
The medical officer of health said Ottawa Public Health is speaking with officials in cities seeing a large spike in new cases, including Toronto and Peel, about possible steps to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re all interested in a targeted approach to tackle where infections are spreading. For the most part, it’s really the social gatherings, in people’s homes.”
Last Thursday, Ontario announced new limits on social gatherings across the province. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, while outdoor events can have 25 people.
“We need to then make sure that we’re adhering to the new provincial regulations of no more than 10 in a gathering, but really as few as possible. So your household and the people who are important to support you in your life. Whether they’re your grandparents or child care,” said Dr. Etches.
“I don’t want to have to shut things down.”
News Releases | COVID-19 Bulletin #198 – news.gov.mb.ca
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