CBC Windsor May 21 COVID-19 update: Spike in drug-related hospital visits

Here's a look at what's happening in our area on Thursday, May 21.

Windsor-Essex County Health Unit provides a daily COVID-19 update

Medical officer of health, Dr. Wajid Ahmed, said substance abusers should carry a naloxone kit, after a recent spike in drug-related emergency department visits prompted an alert from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. (Martha Dillman/CBC)

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported a significant spike in drug-related emergency department visits in our area during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

From May 12 to May 18 there were 18 substance misuse and overdose-related emergency department visits, with nine of those happening in one day on May 16. The health unit said fentanyl was detected in 12 of the 18 overdoses and another three cases involved other opiods. 

The overdoses on Saturday prompted the health unit to issue an alert — but that alert didn't come through to the public until Thursday. 

In the months of January, February and March, drug related visits were much higher than in 2019 and 2018, said Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health. 

"Stress, anxiety and self-isolation can have a negative impact on substance abuse issues," said Ahmed. "Individuals who use substances may be at higher risk of COVID-19." 

Opiods, vaping, smoking and alcohol use all contribute to heightened risks of COVID-19, said Ahmed. 

"It is important people dealing with substance abuse know that they are not alone and the community is here to support them," he said. 

Ahmed explained that group based supports and social networks are a key element for those overcoming substance abuse and need to continue happening although physical distancing needs to be observed. 

"Do not use drugs alone, carry a naloxone kit," said Ahmed, who added people who use substances should not share needles or other drug paraphernalia and should wash their hands after substance abuse. 

The health unit said there are many supports available for those dealing with substance abuse and their families and loved ones on their website here:

21 new COVID-19 cases in Windsor Essex

The health unit reported an increase of 21 cases of COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex Thursday.

Eight of those cases are in the community and 13 are in migrant workers in the area. Of the 13 cases for migrant workers, Ahmed said they come from at least two workplaces. He said testing is based on risk-assessment in those workplaces, and screening and monitoring need to continue in these facilities and that employers need to be vigilant.

There are now 826 total reported cases of COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex, and 465 people have recovered from the disease. 

WATCH | The health unit's COVID-19 update for May 21:


There are 13 long-term care and retirement homes in Windsor-Essex under a COVID-19 outbreak, down from 14 on Wednesday.

Amica Riverside, which had 24 residents and 15 staff with COVID-19, have overcome the outbreak at the facility. Two residents at Amica had died from the disease. 

An outbreak is considered over when there are no new symptoms or cases of COVID-19 after 14 days. Ahmed explained that's enough evidence to show the spread of the virus has finished. 

There are now 13 long-term care and retirement homes currently under a COVID-19 outbreak in Windsor-Essex. (Windsor Essex County Health Unit)

Earlier this week, the health unit announced that COVID-19 testing would be available for people who are experiencing even one symptom related to the virus — a significant change to the testing criteria previously outlined throughout the course of the pandemic. 

As more businesses and services reopen, the likelihood of community contact is much higher, explained Ahmed, adding it's necessary to show the impact the disease is having on the community. 

Those who have even one symptom of coronavirus can go to an assessment centre and be tested or they can contact their primary care provider to set up an appointment to be tested if the office is able to do so, said Ahmed. Testing more people, even those with mild symptoms, will give a better idea of the community spread, he said. 

Wear a mask in public, recommends Tam

Canada's chief public health officer says Canadians should wear a mask as an "added layer of protection" whenever physical distancing is not possible.

Dr. Theresa Tam provided the updated advice during her daily news conference in Ottawa Wednesday.

"For the spring and summer months, strict adherence to the public health basics of physical distancing, hand washing and cough etiquette must continue as the bare minimum," she said.

"In addition, where COVID-19 activity is occurring, use of non-medical masks or face coverings is recommended as an added layer of protection when physical distancing is difficult to maintain. And staying home when sick is a must, always and everywhere."

Watch| Chief Public Health Officer explains mask guideline:

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, is now recommending that Canadians wear masks in public as an "added layer of protection" whenever physical distancing is not possible. 2:27

The health unit has recommended that people wear masks when they go out in public, as a means to further prevent the spread of the virus as more people access newly reopened businesses and services. But Ahmed, has also stressed that people should limit their trips outside of the home to essential needs only. 

Husband and pregnant wife, father and newborn separated by closed border

The month-long border closure extension announced Tuesday could not come at a worse time for couple Ashley and Tom Cook, who are eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child together

The two doctors live and work on opposite sides of the U.S.–Canada border and have been separated since March — leaving Ashley feeling isolated during a tricky pregnancy. 

"We have been trying to conceive for almost four years," said Ashley, explaining she's been through multiple rounds of in-vitro fertilization, including a few trips to Spain for the treatment. 

"I just feel so sad," said Ashley, choking back tears. "I have a hard time talking about this. My husband is missing out on this entire journey that we worked really, really, hard for. It's just more frustrating probably than anything." 

Ashley and Tom Cook are expecting their first child together after a four-year-long journey trying to get pregnant. But the doctors live on opposite sides of the Michigan-Ontario border, unable to see each other for months. (Submitted by Ashley Cook)

While announcing the border closure on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the situation would be reviewed again next month. 

Ashley called the border closure an "oversight of government" as many are unable to see loved ones. 

While Ashley and Tom Cook aren't the only couple separated the COVID-19-related border restrictions between Canada and the U.S., their story is intimately familiar for Windsor resident Haylie Gadsby and her fiancé Mark currently living in Michigan.

Haylie gave birth on May 9 to her and Mark's firstborn son Bentley, but due to the ongoing border restrictions, Mark was unable to gain entry into Canada to be there during childbirth.

"He has contacted the border multiple times to see if he would be able to come across, and they deny him each and every time he calls," Haylie said. "All they say is childbirth is not essential."

COVID-19 in Sarnia-Lambton

Lambton Public Health reported 235 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region. Overall, 19 people have died and 170 people have recovered from the disease. 

An outbreak at Vison Nursing Home in Sarnia has worsened with 17 residents testing positive for the disease and 16 staff members. Four residents there have died.

An outbreak at Marshall Gowland Manor long-term care home in Sarnia has also been reported, with one resident testing positive. 

Village On The St. Clair retirement home in Sarnia is also experiencing an outbreak, as two residents there tested positive for COVID-19. 

COVID-19 in Chatham-Kent

Chatham-Kent's health unit reported 138 cases of COVID-19 for that community, with the majority of them linked to an outbreak at Greenhill Produce. 

There are now 96 workers at the facility who have tested positive for COVID-19. An outbreak was investigated at the end of April, when about 40 cases of the disease were discovered among workers at the greenhouse operation. 

In Chatham-Kent, one person has died due to COVID-19 and 90 people have recovered. 

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