CBC Windsor's COVID-19 update: Here's what you need to know March 18
Local hospitals phasing out elective procedures, while Chatham-Kent announced first confirmed case
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit provided a live COVID-19 update Wednesday morning, which included the news there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its jurisdiction.
There have been 164 people tested, with 103 tests still pending. The health unit said results could take up to four days.
The health unit has issued "several" violation orders to bars and restaurants for being open, after failing to comply with a provincial mandate to close all services except for takeout and delivery.
"The health unit officers, along with the local law enforcement agencies, were out yesterday to investigate the level of compliance with the order, focusing on the high-risk establishments for St. Patrick's Day, such as bars and nightclubs," said Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. "As a result, several area businesses were issued a Section 22 order under the Health Promotion and Protection Act."
Officials are also asking people to avoid any non-essential travel, including locally.
"We are at least lucky that we don't have a confirmed case in Windsor and Essex, and I [would] like to keep it that way," said Ahmed.
"With the popping up of cases in all these communities, I want to make sure that we are doing everything not to introduce any new case in our community. With some of these travels, it could be a risk, and if we can avoid that, I would like to err on the side of caution to make sure that we are doing everything we can to prevent the introduction of this COVID-19 virus in our community."
Ahmed said commuters that cross to Detroit for work purposes should consider work from home options with their employer and regularly self-monitor for any symptoms including taking their temperatures. The health unit also wants to be notified if you work across the border. More information can be found on its website.
In a media release, Ahmed said essential workers who have travelled outside of Canada for "non-essential travel, such as cruises or vacations" must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to Canada.
Ahmed clarified that this directive is not intended for daily commuters who cross the border for work.
Chatham-Kent first COVID-19 case
The Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit (CKPHU) has confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the municipality.
In a statement, officials said the patient had a travel history where they contracted the illness.
"The patient arrived at Chatham-Kent Health Alliance's emergency department, where they were safely screened and tested for the illness," read the statement.
"The patient has been isolated at home since."
Michigan reports first COVID-19 death
Officials say a man in his 50s who had COVID-19 has died at a Detroit-area hospital. It's the first coronavirus death in Michigan. Beaumont Health says the man had the virus and other underlying health conditions.
'Ramping down' non-urgent scheduled care
Meanwhile, Windsor Regional Hospital and Erie Shores Health Care in Leamington say they are following a directive from the province by cutting back on elective procedures.
They're planning what they call a staged "ramping down" of non-urgent, scheduled care, as well as ambulatory clinics.
Watch: An update from Windsor Regional Hospital regarding elective procedures.
Dr. Wassim Saad, Windsor Regional Hospital's chief of staff, said they're doing this to free up 150 beds.
"We currently have 17 operating rooms running across both campuses. That will be reduced to six in total. This translates into about 600 to 700 patients a week that are scheduled to have procedures that will have to be postponed or cancelled at this time," said Saad.
"The Ontario government is trying to create as many beds as possible and as much capacity as possible, so that if and when this wave of patients who we expect to be sick with COVID-19 hits, we'll have the ability to care for them."
Saad expects that wave to arrive in the next seven to 14 days.
The hospitals said most of the temporary closures and postponements will be effective Thursday. This includes diagnostic scans.
Patients will be contacted if their appointments are affected.
Limitations in testing
Testing for Covid-19 is currently based on the criteria that's outlined by Public Health Ontario. Saad said, even now, travel doesn't make sense because of how pervasive the virus is.
"If you think about people who cross the border and go to Michigan where they have a certain number of cases and they come back. If you travel to Toronto and come back you're probably at higher risk even though that's not considered out of country travel," he said.
But there's a limitation in testing.
"Unfortunately we're dealing with a limited supply of nasopharyngeal swabs for the test. And this is not just again a local shortage this is a worldwide shortage," Saad said.
As of Monday they had 100 tests and 150 more were delivered Tuesday. In the first two days since the assessment centre opened, almost 200 patients arrived seeking tests, but only 90 were tested.
"Over the last two days about 50 percent of people did not need to be tested," said Saad.
Retired doctors and nurses are returning to help with the health care crisis.
"I think it's impressive to see the people that are willing to help out and come out of retirement and put themselves on the front lines to be able to help," he said."
There are 36 ventilators in the hospitals in Windsor-Essex and Saad said there are others that can be activated, should the need arise. He said the province is also looking into the issue to make sure the region has enough.
The health unit offers regular updates, advice, and information on coronavirus on its website.
Scammers take advantage of COVID-19 fears
Windsor resident Jo-Ann Robinson received a text message from the Canadian Red Cross claiming to offer free face masks. She was skeptical and phoned her daughter-in-law immediately.
Robinson's story is familiar to LaSalle Coun. Mike Akpata.
A former Windsor police officer whose expertise was fraud, Akpata said he's also received a number of fraudulent phone calls to his cellphone related to COVID-19.
Akpata said right now — while concerns about COVID-19 are at their highest — is when fraudsters and scammers are most likely to prey on victims, especially seniors.
Canada, U.S. working to restrict non-essential travel
Canada and the United States are finalizing a deal to close their shared border to non-essential travel — an extraordinary measure designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Multiple sources with direct knowledge of the talks say the details are still being worked out, and could be announced as early as Wednesday.
Once finalized, the mutual agreement would close the border to tourists and shoppers while still allowing Canadians to return home. The final deal is expected to allow some commercial traffic to continue to keep critical supply chains intact.
Windsor man stuck in Morocco
Two weeks ago, Rakan Aloran landed in Tangiers, Morocco for vacation. Then, he said, the whole world basically just stopped.
He said his first flight back to Canada was supposed to be March 18, the earliest flight he could find. After booking it, despite the cost and it being a long flight, it was cancelled. The Moroccan government suspended all flights in and out of the country.
Aloran is closely following advise from the Canadian Embassy in Morocco, which tweeted on March 15, that there was no specified date for the suspension of flights. Reading that gave him "some reassurances that at least I'm ok."
Farmers concerned about restrictions on Canada's migrant farm workers
Travel restrictions on Canada's migrant farm workers are expected to have a serious impact on the country's homegrown food supply, according to industry experts.
The federal government announced Monday it is closing the Canadian border to anyone except Canadian citizens, permanent residents and U.S. citizens.
And as they're currently written, the new border rules — which are part of sweeping restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus — would prevent seasonal workers from entering Canada.
In response, Conservative Chatham-Kent-Leamington MP Dave Epp has issued a letter to the Liberals, calling for the federal government to "revisit" its decision.
With files from the Associated Press