Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/April 1 – Today, the Hastings Prince Edward Board of Health (HPEPH) held its monthly meeting for April 2020. The regular meeting was conducted by teleconference as part of HPEPH’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and practice physical distancing.
Public Health Essential to Local COVID-19 Response
HPEPH continues ongoing work with community partners to provide a comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic. HPEPH has implemented their pandemic response plan, initiated an Incident Management Response System, launched a COVID-19 information and risk assessment line, and begun testing for COVID-19 on a priority basis. Through the information line, individuals concerned about their risk of COVID-19 can receive an assessment and be screened for self-isolation needs, as well as determine if testing is required. Over the month of March, the intake line responded to over 3,200 phone calls.
HPEPH continues to work with community partners to share emerging information about COVID-19 and support local implementation of national, provincial, and community directives. HPEPH is working with local healthcare providers, governments, employers, and community organizations to respond to concerns about the risk of COVID-19 and support the heath and safety of the community.
Probable and Confirmed Cases Increasing in HPEC
As of March 31, there were 253 probable cases in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties (HPEC) and 11 lab confirmed cases. Hundreds of local individuals have been tested, and HPEPH has received reports on over 200 completed lab tests. As numbers of both confirmed and probable cases continue to grow in the region, HPEPH is reinforcing the need for all residents to exercise physical distancing and infection control practices at every opportunity.
“The cases we are seeing today, are the results of activities and transmission that took place up to two weeks ago,” says Dr. Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health and CEO at HPEPH. “If we are diligent with our physical distancing efforts, and everyone recognizes the need to take this seriously and act now, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
Protection of Patient Privacy a Priority for HPEPH
HPEPH understands that there is increasing interest and concern in local cases of COVID-19. The organization has received several inquiries about positive COVID-19 cases.
HPEPH operates under strict guidelines that prohibit sharing of any information that could reveal the identity of an individual. This means that HPEPH will not be making public statements about the specific location or age of positive cases. With evidence that COVID-19 is in the community, residents must take all necessary precautions to protect themselves, regardless of the location of confirmed cases. While HPEPH is working with employers who may need to respond to confirmed positive cases in their organization, public health will not be publicly releasing any statements on such situations until the employer has had the opportunity to notify their staff and make their own statement.
Despite these efforts to protect individual privacy, residents can be reassured that any identified close contacts of confirmed positive cases are being contacted, provided with a risk assessment, and advised to self isolate – minimizing risk to the community.
Community Assessment Centres to be Coordinated by Province
Our partners in Ontario Health are leading the development of local assessment centres, and we are looking forward to their implementation which will help increase local capacity for assessment and testing. Any local testing implemented through these assessment centres would continue to follow Public Health Ontario’s testing guidelines. The system is currently responding to testing and assessment needs with existing capacity through a variety of channels such as community paramedicine, public health, and hospitals. Currently, assessment is available to anyone who believes they have been exposed to COVID-19, and testing is available to those who qualify under the guidelines. Right now, testing is being prioritized to ensure those who need the tests most receive appropriate care.
Emily Tubbs, Communications Specialist
Veronica Montgomery, Foundational Standards Manager
About Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) is a public health agency that serves the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward from four local offices. We monitor the health of our local population, deliver programs and services within our communities, and help develop healthy public policies. We provide information and support in many areas to help improve the health and well-being of our residents. Together with our communities, we help people become as healthy as they can be. For more information, please visit hpePublicHealth.ca. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.