So far 11 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in an outbreak at the Forum rooming house in Hanover, after someone from outside Grey-Bruce who stayed there tested positive.
Efforts to track down close contacts are ongoing, including a flyer distribution by Hanover police to contacts and places close contacts of the rooming house residents might be, said the local medical officer of health, Dr. Ian Arra, in an interview Friday afternoon.
He will form part of a small vaccination team that will go to Hanover Saturday to seek out people in different pockets of the town who are close contacts who have not tested positive, to give them COVID shots.
Of 19 people tested related to the outbreak, 11 tested positive so far. Some are residents and some are visitors, Arra said.
The health unit learned of the first person who tested positive, the outbreak’s index case, after a positive test result in another jurisdiction prompted staff there to notify Arra’s team.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit announced Thursday night at least 10 people had tested positive. It advised in a news release that anyone who stayed at the rooming house, at 315 10th St., since May 26 should self-isolate for 14 days from the last day they were present and should contact a local assessment centre for testing.
Regardless of the test result, impacted people should self-isolate, a health unit news release said.
“The main challenge with this group is the non-compliance and non-address,” Arra said Friday. “So can we capture everybody? No, and that’s why we put the media release.”
After finding housing for any rooming house residents who preferred to self-isolate alone elsewhere, the health unit hired a security firm to ensure the residents who remain stay inside and to prevent any members of the public from entering the facility, Arra said.
Hanover police have also agreed to assist security if needed.
The health unit heard about the index case Tuesday and at that point it appeared there was little potential for transmission, Arra said. Testing Thursday revealed the outbreak in the rooming house. He said public health guidance wasn’t followed there.
“I have concern that the measures are not in place, whether wearing a mask or keeping physical distancing or isolating when somebody’s ill or getting tested,” Arra said. He also said in general that shelters and congregate housing facilities in Grey-Bruce have taken “optimal” precautions.
The health unit’s harm reduction team visits that rooming house every Friday to provide residents with harm reduction products, including naloxone, safe injection kits and to meet similar needs.
Outbreak efforts have focused on supporting those affected. The possibility of substance withdrawal needs has been anticipated, emergency housing has been found as needed and Owen Sound Hunger and Relief Effort and the United Way are providing food, for example.
“We are ensuring all stakeholders are notified including: police, EMS, hospital, assessment centres, health care providers, other shelters, correction facilities, neighbouring health units, and the public to advise whomever stayed/visited,” the release said.
Asked whether this spike in cases could delay a reopening and lifting of pandemic restrictions in Grey-Bruce when the province moves to Step 1 of its Road to Reopening plan, Arra said it shouldn’t.