Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/March 16, 2020 – 10:55 a.m.
As the result of several changes in provincial guidelines related to COVID-19 screening and testing, Public Health officials strongly suspect that COVID-19 is circulating in the community and are advising all members of the public to recognize that there is a time limited opportunity to slow down the local spread of the virus.
While there have been no lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the community at this time, Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) has identified 35 probable cases of COVID-19 in the region. These individuals have been advised to self-isolate for 14 days and until symptoms resolve. In addition, travel related cases have been lab confirmed in nearby public health unit jurisdictions, such as in Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit.
On Friday March 13, the Ministry of Health broadened the definition for a probable case of COVID-19. A probable case is defined as a person with a fever (over 38 degrees Celsius) and/or a cough and any of the following within 14 days prior to onset of illness:
- travel to an impacted area, or
- close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, or
- close contact with a person with acute respiratory illness who has been to an impacted area.
In addition, lab test results are no longer required to screen an individual as a probable case. The recent implementation of a dial-in screening service at HPEPH has expedited the screening process while quickly and efficiently identifying probable cases.
As screening for probable cases no longer requires lab testing, it is possible that not all of the identified probable cases are COVID-19. However, the emergence of local probable cases reinforces the need for all community members to practice precautions, including social distancing, hand hygiene, and infection control. As many probable cases are related to travel, this data also reinforces the need for returning travellers to comply with the self-isolation advisory issued by HPEPH yesterday, as well as existing provincial self-isolation requirements. The recent advisory calls for all individuals who are returning from any travel outside of Canada to self-isolate for 14 days and to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. Everyone can contribute to slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“We want the community to know that while we suspect the virus is in our community, we can slow the spread locally. We are calling on everyone in our community to do their part and help keep the risk low in our community”, says Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health and CEO at HPEPH. “This means practicing regular infection control, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, working from home if possible, and staying home when you are sick.”
Individuals who are concerned that they may have COVID-19 are advised to visit hpePublicHealth.ca for more information. If they have recently travelled or have been in close contact with an individual who has a probable/confirmed case, individuals are asked to contact HPEPH at 613-966-5500 for more information and guidance.
Veronica Montgomery, Foundational Standards Manager