CBC Windsor May 22 COVID-19 update: Random COVID-19 testing coming next week
Mobile units will pop-up to conduct COVID-19 testing across Essex County
Medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed announced Friday that random COVID-19 testing will be rolling out in Windsor-Essex, with a goal of having primary care providers and clinics able to do testing in their offices eventually.
"We will be offering a combination of a drive-thru testing and a trailer-based testing at different locations across Windsor and Essex," said Ahmed. "We expect to start these random testing across Windsor and Essex County starting next week."
Anyone will be able to receive testing at these sites, run by the Windsor Essex County Health Unit and Essex Windsor EMS. Ahmed said having a health card is highly recommended, but not required.
The health unit wants to closely monitor the spread of the virus as restrictions start to lessen across the province.
WATCH | The health unit's COVID-19 update for May 22:
"We like to see what impacts all these openings have in the community, and now with more people outside the likelihood of them coming into contact with someone is high," he said, adding that community transmission and close contact are the ways people are now contracting the virus.
"If we see more positive cases at the end of this testing that means we have more positive cases circulating in the community and we need to look at how these reopenings are impacting the community," said Ahmed.
The testing needs to be "truly random" said Ahmed so the health unit will not disclose the locations of the daily pop-up testing sites. But they will come to all municipalities and areas in Essex County, he said.
For their part, residents like Jay Brahmbhatt and Marica Repac said they supported the idea of random testing sites across the region.
WATCH | Residents react to news of upcoming random testing sites:
In addition to the random testing, Ahmed is thinking more long-term and planning for family doctors and other health-care providers to offer testing at their locations.
"I'm requesting all the primary care providers to offer testing to all their clients," said Ahmed.
That piece of the testing puzzle is still being worked out, as Ahmed said the health unit is assessing how this sort of testing could be done in clinics across Essex.
"Right now we have at least six primary care providers spread across the county and the city that are doing testing of their own clients," said Ahmed. "COVID-19 is not going anywhere and it's going to continue existing .... we want to make sure we have other sites available for people to go."
It's unclear when that rollout will take place.
Where we are on the curve
The health unit reported an increase of 17 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total number of reported cases in the area to 843.
Eight of the cases are in migrant workers in the community, and nine cases are in the community.
On Fridays, the health unit offers an epidemiological summary, which is an analysis of data related to COVID-19 in our community and shows how we are trending.
Ahmed said that although the number of new cases appears to be slowing, he worries there will be an increase as some people believe the health restrictions aren't necessary and people in the community believe the caution over COVID-19 to be a "conspiracy."
Windsor-Essex has the fourth highest rate of COVID-19 in the province, and currently we have a higher rate of the disease than the provincial average.
Ahmed attributes this high rate to the number of elderly people in the community and the prevalence of outbreaks at long-term care and retirement homes.
Five long-term care and retirement homes have been cleared of an outbreak, bringing the number of senior's facilities currently under outbreak down to eight.
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.
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.
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.
18 substance misuse, overdose emergency visits in one week
The health unit has previously expressed concerns for those dealing with substance abuse during this pandemic, and on Thursday an alert from the health authority showed just how bad the last few months have been for those individuals.
Ahmed 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. He said fentanyl was detected in 12 of the 18 overdoses and another three cases involved other opiods.
In the months of January, February and March, drug related visits were much higher than in 2019 and 2018, said Ahmed.
"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: https://wecoss.ca/.
What it could take to reopen casinos
Ontario recently began its first phase of a three-phase reopening plan — including more businesses — but it's still unclear what this means for casinos.
Caesars Windsor has been closed to the public since mid-March. A spokesperson for the casino declined an interview with CBC News, however, said reopening plans would be in collaboration with Unifor Local 444, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLG), Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), and Caesars Entertainment.
"The reopening of the casinos in Ontario will occur when it is permitted by the province," said Tony Bitonti, OLG's director of external communications.
There are 27 casinos in Ontario, and Bitonti said it's unclear where they fit into any of the reopening phases. OLG along with AGCO are working together to make sure health and safety protocols are in place for both staff and customers before facilities open their doors again.
Bitonti provided some examples:
- Physical distancing of at least two metres (achieved in part by admitting fewer customers)
- The use of face coverings
- Ensuring the availability of alcohol-based hand sanitizer for customers
- Implementing physical barriers such as Plexiglass partitions
- Enhanced cleaning, particularly of high-touch surfaces
COVID-19 in Sarnia-Lambton
Lambton Public Health reported 243 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region. Overall, 19 people have died and 173 people have recovered from the disease.
An outbreak at Vision Nursing Home in Sarnia has worsened with 20 residents testing positive for the disease and 18 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 142 cases of COVID-19 for that community, with the majority of them linked to an outbreak at Greenhill Produce.
There are now 100 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.