Algoma Public Health doctor reflects on how far we’ve come and what needs to be done better
Six months after the Sault and Algoma area closed, as well as the rest of Ontario, Canada and the world due to COVID-19, and as businesses and schools in our community reopen, SooToday asked a local health care professional how long she felt this current. The COVID era will last.
Some people are talking about a post-COVID world, but when will it be?
“I wish I could pull out my crystal ball and see,” said Dr. Jennifer Loo, deputy medical officer of public health for Algoma (APH) and director of health protection.
“I think a vaccine will definitely be a very important next step,” Loo said, pointing to several clinical trials currently underway around the world, adding the common sense measures of maintaining a healthy diet, making it more effective. Exercise and getting the flu shot (if any desires) will help reduce cases of COVID.
As the regular flu season approaches, Loo said that “the most important thing for people to do, if they just have mild symptoms (of the flu), is get tested for COVID (just in case where) and stay home (until this flu or COVID passes). We need to preserve the capacity of our health system at the community level so that those who really need urgent care can get it. Heart attacks and strokes still happen and haven’t gone away. “
“We don’t want to go into lockdown,” Loo said, stressing the need for everyone to observe existing precautionary measures against COVID-19, such as wearing masks, physical distancing and staying in one’s circle social.
Despite a bunch of COVID-19 precautionary measures to observe, Loo said students, parents and teachers appear to be adjusting to new COVID-19 era classrooms after school starts. September 8.
A COVID back-to-school guide is available on the APH website.
“As with every stage of reopening during the pandemic, the first two weeks are always a huge learning curve for everyone involved, our parents, our teachers, our students. I think it’s probably the students who take it all in stride, ”Loo said.
Throughout the COVID ordeal, some residents of Sault and Algoma have complained of a long wait between the COVID test and receiving the test results.
Sault COVID-19 test swabs are not done in an APH lab, but in Sault Ste. Marie COVID-19 Assessment Center near the Sault area hospital and sent to out of town labs (Public Health Ontario private and provincial labs), Loo said.
“We are looking to reach out to all of our partners and stakeholders to do a little assessment of how things have gone over the past six months, what has gone well and what could have been improved.”
“We know it is very important… to have timely test results,” Loo said.
“These are the types of issues that we know are going on. They are shared in the North and in rural communities, so we are actively trying to find additional ways… to see how we can have better access to rapid tests in our area.
“In Algoma, in the most recent seven-day period available between September 3 and September 9, the average time for COVID-19 testing was approximately three days, the turnaround time measured between the time where the swab was collected and when the result was taken. available. It is important to note that this is only the average situation, and some people will experience shorter or longer times than this reported average, ”APH reported to SooToday in a subsequent email after a telephone interview. with Loo Wednesday morning.
“I think it’s really important to think about how far we’ve come in the last six months,” Loo said.
“For a virus we’ve never seen before, we’ve come a very long way and in Algoma in particular,” said Loo, attributing several health care and community partners in Sault and the region to a ready approach. and proactive of COVID, two months before the end of COVID-19 in March.
“We knew about this virus from January.”
“There was already information coming out. Much of the Algoma Public Health emergency preparedness team was already talking with community emergency management coordinators, our CMCs, in the 21 municipalities of Algoma… we knew the risk of the virus in our communities at the very beginning of the pandemic was going to be tied to returning travelers (such as snowbirds and spring break travelers), so there was a lot of work behind the scenes (to help quarantine people with things such as grocery delivery), ”Loo said.
“This was days before the federal government implemented mandatory quarantine.”
As many, if not most, viruses go away after awhile, why was this one on for so long?
“There are a lot of different viruses (eg influenza)… these are viruses that have been with humans for a while,” Loo said. “They come and go, but it’s similar to H1N1, and it hasn’t really gone away, it’s just become another one of those respiratory viruses that go around every season. SARS caused much more serious illness and what we saw in Ontario was that it tended to spread especially in health care settings where there was a lot of closed contact.
“With COVID-19, as we continue to see, it’s not just limited to these parameters. It can transmit in households, it can transmit in gatherings where people congregate and do not observe physical distancing. It is part of the nature of the virus itself. Every virus is different, and what we now know about the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is that it has an incubation period of up to 14 days and one person shows symptoms, it is able to transmit the virus to others from 48 hours. before symptoms start, up to 14 days after symptoms start, so that’s quite a long time, ”Loo said.
“It’s very delicate for us, even when we are the most careful. If we don’t have any symptoms, we could still potentially be pre-symptomatic and be able to transmit the virus and therefore for that reason which is why it was so important for us to say ‘keep taking your physical distances, wear this mask ”because you never know if you’ve caught the virus. ”
Simply put, it is a virus like no other.
“It’s in the coronavirus family, the same family of viruses that caused SARS, but it’s new and no one on the planet has seen it before and so no one has immunity,” said Loo.
Everyone, not just the elderly and / or those with serious health conditions or unhealthy lifestyles, are susceptible to COVID-19, Loo said.
“The virus does not discriminate. Your risk of getting infected is related to your risk of exposure to other people … you get it when another (infected) person comes within two meters of you (and / or), coughs and sneeze those infected droplets towards you. ”
“Because no one has immunity, everyone is vulnerable… in Algoma everyone did a great job with the first wave, we kept transmission to an absolute minimum, with fewer cases total than some. big cities in one day, but the flip side is that we are all still susceptible and as long as the virus persists in other communities, in other jurisdictions, in other countries, we are literally all in the same boat. We can’t disrupt a lot of commerce and travel and the virus will continue to circulate, ”Loo said.