Thunder Bay

Higher rate of testing accomplished than provincial average, says Northwestern Health Unit

It's been more than a week since there were any new or active cases of COVID-19 in the catchment area for the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), and staff can not focus increasing testing.

Lake of the Woods District Hospital testing all patients for COVID-19 before being admitted

Dr. Ian Gemmill is the acting medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit in Ontario. The health unit currently has no active cases of COVID-19. (Northwestern Health Unit)

It's been more than a week since there were any new or active cases of COVID-19 in the catchment area for the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), and staff can now focus increasing testing.

Dr. Ian Gemmill, the acting medical officer of health for the NWHU, said the lack of new cases has public health staff turning their focus from contact tracing to testing throughout the region.

Gemmill said staff at local long-term care homes were also doing their part to help get more tests completed for staff and those who live in the facility.

"In terms of testing rates, we are higher than the provincial average," Gemmill said. "Our testing rate is 3,200 per 100,000. Now that's cumulative, so that means for every test done, that number will go up." 

He said results were back from seven of nine long-term care homes in the catchment area, which includes communities west of Thunder Bay to the Manitoba border, south to Minnesota and north to Hudson Bay.

Gemmill said 2,600 tests have been completed for people living in the NWHU catchment area, with 1,660 of those tests coming back as negative.

He said he was hopeful that the area had "dodged the first wave" of the virus.

Gemmill said the NWHU was able to now complete testing on anybody who showed any symptom of COVID-19, with a list of symptoms that was constantly expanding, he said.

Impact on Kenora hospital

The reduction in cases means the Lake of the Woods District Hospital in Kenora has now started to test all patients for COVID-19 before being admitted.

"We're still prepared for what's coming, we just don't know when it's coming," said Ray Racette, the president and CEO of the Lake of the Woods District Hospital.

Racette said he believed the hospital could see a case of COVID-19 in late May or early June when more people are moving around, with more interaction.

He said all decisions are being made to ensure the hospital could handle a surge of COVID-19 patients, while also ramping up for non-essential surgeries.

Racette said he did not have an accurate number as to how many surgeries were cancelled and displaced during the pandemic for Kenora, but said in Ontario, the figure is close to 50,000.

If you feel you have symptoms, and want to book a test for COVID-19 with the NWHU, you can call 1-866-468-2240.

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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