Millroy: Opening Up Slowly The Best Approach


There may be changes in the COVID-19 situation in the district of Algoma by the time you get to read this.

But at the moment I think we are remarkably lucky to have gotten to this point with only 20 of more than 5,500 tested showing positive results and none of the 20 being required to go on ventilators, self-isolation doing the job.

However, I should note that of the more than 5,500 tests administered, about 350 results are still pending.

And I also should note that the virus has gotten into one long term care home, Algoma Public Health reporting on May 5 that three residents of Extendicare Maple View had tested positive.

I asked Algoma Public Health via email if it had any idea how the virus got in the home, suggesting it had to be through a staff member as visitation was not being allowed during the pandemic.

“Although investigations continue, no clear route of transmission has been identified,” Dr. Jennifer Loo, Associate Medical Officer of Health, said in her reply.

“Sometimes tracing the chain of transmission is not possible, because asymptomatic transmission can happen and because some who may have been infected earlier would have resolved their illness (and would therefore have a negative COVID-19 test result)”.

She said the three residents had no symptoms and remain in isolation to prevent further transmission.

She also said surveillance testing of all Extendicare Maple View staff and residents has been completed and initial lab results have been negative. All staff and essential visitors must wear masks and are being screened for symptoms every day.

As well, as part of the province’s one-time surveillance initiative, residents and staff at all Algoma long term care homes have completed COVID-19 testing.

“According to Ministry of Health criteria, one single resident or staff who tests positive for COVID-19 in a long-term care home is enough to declare an outbreak,” Loo explained. “Our outbreak response team is working with Maple View to identify potential exposures and to support the care team in putting heightened infection prevention and control measures in place that will reduce the risk of further spread.”

I was interested in how APH goes about tracing the people who may have had contact with those who have tested positive and was directed to APH’s website.

It says:
“APH public health nurses work with the individual to identify how they may have contracted COVID-19. This involves careful investigation of possible exposures during the 14 days before the individual became ill.

“APH public health nurses will do contact tracing to identify people who may have been in close contact with the ill individual during the “period of communicability” which is 48 hours before symptom onset, to 14 days after symptom onset.

“Examples of people considered close contacts: people living in the same household, people having direct or close physical contact with the ill individual, and people with direct contact with respiratory droplets from the ill individual (e.g. shaking hands, having been coughed or sneezed on, touching used tissues with bare hands).

“Once close contacts are identified, APH public health nurses follow up with each person individually to give public health guidance and instructions. Usually follow-up with close contacts happens the same day as they are identified, or within 24 hours. Not all close contacts of a person with COVID-19 will develop symptoms. Public health instructions to close contacts are tailored according to the level of exposure risk, and may include instructions to self-monitor for symptoms, to seek testing if ill, and/or to self-isolate.
“Sometimes, in addition to notifying close contacts individually, broader public notification is required. In these situations, APH typically issues media releases to inform the general public of risks in Algoma communities.

“In an outbreak scenario, such as at a workplace setting or a residential institution, there can be a large number of people affected. In these situations, a media release is often the fastest way to notify people who are potentially affected, so that they can contact APH and/or their institution for further instructions.

“Sometimes a definitive exposure cannot be identified as to how the ill individual contracted COVID-19. This can happen if a person cannot fully remember their close contacts for the 14 days before symptoms, or if there is no way to identify all times and places of risk in a comprehensive way. In this situation, if the original exposure is unknown, and has happened too far back to take any further action, this is considered a case of “community transmission” or “community spread” of the virus. In all communities where community spread is happening or is likely, every person must practice physical distancing and stay at home as much as possible, because any close contact can be a potential exposure.”

I also asked where APH stood on the provincial lockdown? Does it agree with the government’s declaration that it is an emergency and is not going to be in a rush to fully open the province for business?

“Given that the virus continues to circulate in local communities, APH advice is very much consistent with the province’s announcement that the reopening must be gradual and accompanied with close monitoring, as well as ongoing practice of physical distancing, hand washing, and other preventive measures,” was the reply I received..
I, and I hope the majority is, am on board with that.

I believe that if we do this right the first time, we may not have to have the second go I believe a lot of provinces and states who are rushing their openings are going to experience.


Comments are closed.