Thunder Bay

People with COVID-19 in northwestern Ontario "extremely responsible": Northwestern Health Unit

The six people who have confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Northwestern Health Unit's (NWHU) catchment area have been "extremely responsible," according to the unit's acting medical officer of health.

Small health unit covering large area has 6 cases in its jurisdiction, one of lowest counts in the province

Dr.Ian Gemmill is the acting medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit. He said the region is "extremely fortunate" that all of those with COVID-19 in the area have self-isolated immediately after being out of the region. (Northwestern Health Unit)

The six people who have confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Northwestern Health Unit's (NWHU) catchment area have been "extremely responsible," according to the unit's acting medical officer of health.

Dr. Ian Gemmill said during his Monday afternoon briefing that all of the cases in the area are travel-related, and that all the individuals went into self-isolation upon their return home. 

He said he believes those actions have stopped those cases, at least, from becoming a larger problem in the region.

"Again, we are in very good luck here, in that all the people who have tested positive in our area have been extremely responsible, and understood the requirement for isolation, and have minimized any contact with others. So, the two cases are in isolation at their home," he said, referring to the two most recent cases in Red Lake.They are a couple, who travelled internationally and went into self-isolation immediately upon returning to the community.

Gemmill said the same is true for other travellers in the northwest district who have returned home.

"I think we're just really, in a way lucky that our positivity rate is so very much lower. But, as I mentioned, when evidence of local transmission occurs, and we can see it, that means its actually happened a week to two weeks before."

Gemmill said he still has concerns over potential community spread becoming a reality in the region, adding that he is worried about vulnerable people  including seniors.

While visitation restrictions are in place at long-term care homes, he said apartment buildings, which may have a high number of seniors living in them, should also have as few visitors as possible.

Only those who are providing basic necessities should be allowed in those buildings, he said.

Gemmill said a new lab is slated to be opened in Thunder Bay in the near future and that could result in a quicker turnaround for COVID-19 testing. He said that would only be good news for the northwest.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Northwestern Health Unit had one of the lowest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the province, with only six discovered cases in the region.  There are still 136 tests still pending, while 283 tests have come back negative.

The other health unit in northwestern Ontario, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, has 18 confirmed cases of the virus as of late afternoon April 6.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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