Thunder Bay

More than 250 COVID-19 tests done in Northwestern Health Unit communities

Even though there is no evidence yet that COVID-19 community transmission is happening in northwestern Ontario, the acting medical officer of health at the Northwestern Health Unit is advising people to act as though the virus is spreading.

143 have come back negative, acting medical officer of health says

COVID-19 test kits are pictured on March 11, 2020, the day the WHO declared coronavirus a pandemic. (Evan Tsuyoshi Mitsui/CBC)

Even though there is no evidence yet that COVID-19 community transmission is happening in northwestern Ontario, the acting medical officer of health at the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) is advising people to act as though the virus is spreading. 

There have been two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in people living in the NWHU's service area: one in Fort Frances, and one in Rainy River.

A third case was also reported; however the NWHU has said that individual lives in southern Ontario, and hasn't been back to northern Ontario since contracting the virus.

Each of the cases was travel-related, Dr. Ian Gemmill said during a media briefing Monday, adding that there is no evidence the virus is spreading through community transition.

However, people need to take precautions if virus is to be contained, he said.

"The best advice that I can give to the residents of this area, is to start to assume that there is local transmission, and to conduct oneself accordingly," Gemmill said. "And what that means is, if there is local transmission, everybody locally who is not taking the precautions that you've heard over and over and over and over again, may be at risk, not only for becoming ill oneself, but also for exposing their families, and especially, we can not emphasize enough, the vulnerable members of the family."

Gemmill said people should stay home unless absolutely necessary, and plan their outings carefully so they're not making multiple trips over multiple days.

"Don't go out today for medications, and tomorrow for groceries, and the next day for something else," he said. "Try to do this in a way that limits one's exposure."

He said the NWHU is also asking people not to travel between northwestern Ontario communities unless it's essential.

"If somebody in one community has been exposed and is incubating, and may become infectious, it just takes that one person to ... take it to another community," Gemmill said. "The deal here is to slow it down, blunt the curve, and keep that from happening."

"It will happen, but the later we can make it happen, and the more we can push cases into the future, the better."

Gemmill said just over 250 tests have been done in the NWHU's area, with 143 coming back negative so far. The remainder is outstanding.

 

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