Input provided from northern public health officials prior to lockdown extension

Each of the public health units in northern Ontario shared information with the Ministry of Health prior to its decision to extend the lockdown a further two weeks. Representatives provided provincial officials with their respective public health capacity, and 'local flavour.'

Further measures expected again this week to curb spread of COVID-19

The provincial government sought local input from the public health units in northern Ontario prior to deciding to extend the lockdown in the region a further two weeks. (Erik White/CBC)

Each of the public health units in northern Ontario shared information with the Ministry of Health prior to its decision to extend the lockdown in the region a further two weeks.

The restrictions across the north were to have been lifted on Saturday, but the province has extended the grey zone measures until Jan. 23, possibly longer. 

"We had a conversation about the situations in the north because the numbers are one thing, but actually the experience on the ground is another thing," said Dr Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer of health for Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD).

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe is the medical officer of health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts. (Submitted by Public Health Sudbury & Districts)

Each health unit provided provincial officials with their respective public health capacity.

"What's behind the numbers in terms of the kinds of circumstances of virus transmission that we're seeing, and our ability to manage and cope with that; Our communities and how they're coping and really overarching support for making sure that we continue to protect disease rates and protect people in our populations," she said.

"Our numbers, relative to the south, are small, but they are big and they are growing for us and so it's really important to give a local flavour of what that means."

"Our worry overall is how do we get through this, in this wave right now and prevent really severe consequences to our health care system and to our long term care homes," Sutcliffe said.

Despite the provincial lockdown being extended for northern Ontario, Sutcliffe says further measures should be implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"I do think that there needs to be a further review of what else we can do to prevent transmission and prevent the growing rates. As you know, we are not immune in the north and we are seeing increasing rates here. Of course, our worry overall is how do we get through this in this wave right now?"

The provincial government is expected to take further action in the next day or two.

Meanwhile, the case numbers from over the weekend have increase in the northeast region.

There are 66 active cases within the PHSD catchment area, including 25 new cases reported this weekend. 

For the Porcupine Health Unit, the active case number sits at 33, including an outbreak at the Kidd Creek Mine in Timmins.

Two employees at the mine tested positive for COVID-19, and now the health unit is working closely with the mining company.

"One of [the cases] is within the Porcupine Health Unit region. One of them is from another region," says Dr. Lianne Catton, medical officer of health.

"As we know, many mine employees and contracting employees that work in the mines are from all over Ontario," she added.

"At this point in time, it is stable. We continue to work really closely with the mine to ensure all the measures are in place for infection prevention and control."

Catton says many of the cases are close contacts of other cases, family and household transmissions, or from recent gatherings, while just a few are from travel over the holidays.

"We're able to keep up to contact tracing," Catton said.

Sutcliffe is confident that people know what to do.

"It is in our hands in terms of preventing spread and keeping those numbers down, keeping our schools open and ultimately getting through this shutdown so that we can have more businesses be able to be open," Dr Penny Sutcliffe said. Several health units in the northeast region reported new COVID-19 cases over the weekend,

Across the entire northeastern Ontario region there are 188 active COVID-19 cases.  

Along with Porcupine and Sudbury, Algoma Public Health has 56 active cases, North Bay-Parry Sound District Health Unit has 23 and Timiskaming Health Unit has ten active cases of the virus.


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