“This is the critical moment”: Thunder Bay District Health Unit warns of possible community spread of COVID-19

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Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janet DeMille provided an update on the impact of COVID-19 in the Thunder Bay District area on Saturday.

DeMille provided information on the new positive cases of COVID-19 in the TBDHU watershed, and added that three cases were still under “significant” public health investigation.

“These three cases are individuals with COVID-19 who are not as simple as some others,” she said at a press conference on Saturday.

DeMille said the three cases under investigation are people who live in Thunder Bay and who have not traveled in the past two weeks before experiencing symptoms. She said it looks like these people have contracted the virus in the city.

“For two of them, it is likely that they have caught the virus from a loved one who has traveled. It would not be surprising … For the third individual, it is possible that it is the same situation in which they found themselves in contact with someone who had traveled, but this may not be the case “, did she declared.

Dr. Janet DeMille, Medical Officer of Health and Chief Executive Officer of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, says northwestern Ontario will benefit from rapid implementation of public health measures to control the spread of COVID-19. (Gord Ellis / CBC Thunder Bay)

DeMille said investigations into the three cases have revealed the possibility of a community spread of the virus in Thunder Bay.

“What that means … is that there are people who have COVID-19 in this area who are not identified. Maybe they had a fairly mild illness. Maybe they didn’t think about it much. But these people can pass the virus to others without even knowing it, “she said.

Community spread and expected COVID-19 deaths in the region

According to TBDHU, 500 COVID-19 tests have been performed for the district, 60 of which are still pending. Until recently, all positive virus cases in the TBDHU region were linked to travel or close contact. As of April 4, 2020, two of the 12 confirmed cases had been resolved.

DeMille said community spread in the city is likely to be low at the moment, but the public health agency expects to see more concrete evidence of community spread in the next month.

“So over the next month … we’re going to see a significant increase in the number of cases here,” she said.

“We will likely get more concrete evidence of the spread of the community in Thunder Bay and other communities … we will also see COVID-19 deaths in this area. These next few weeks will be uncomfortable. “

DeMille said the virus is becoming more prevalent, one positive thing they are seeing is an increase in quick turnaround times for tests, and that the backlog of tests in the province has been resolved.

Public Health Measures Already In Place Will Help Northern Ontario

While DeMille provided details of the impact of COVID-19 in the region, she added that northern Ontario is still well positioned to control the spread of the virus.

“I want to reassure you that very important public health measures are already in place, they are already benefiting us,” she said.

In the past week, the province announced new measures, including the extension of school closings, new non-essential business closings, closures of parks and outdoor recreation facilities, and the recommendation to isolate themselves for people over 70.

“We here in northwestern Ontario can benefit from these measures more than those in southern Ontario because they were implemented very early here, and early implementation … can help greatly, ”said DeMille while describing provincial public health measures.

The TBDHU reminds residents of the district to continue to stay at home and to avoid non-essential displacement in the area. The public health agency also encourages the community to continue to follow the appropriate precautions and COVID-19 protocol, as indicated on their website.

“This is the critical moment,” said DeMille, while explaining the importance of following COVID-19 precautions and measures under federal quarantine law. “We all have to do it right and we all have to do it now. “

For more information on the COVID-19 virus, visit the TBDHU website or use the provincial assessment tool.

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