Grey-Bruce has its first confirmed case of one of the variants of concern, in an individual from another health unit who is self-isolating locally.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit Case and Contact Management Team is monitoring the individual and Grey-Bruce Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ian Arra said that any potential risk to the public during the trip to the location of isolation was mitigated. He said the individual did not stop and went directly to isolation with everything they needed.
He called it “a very safe scenario.”
“They are in Grey-Bruce and they are our case at this point,” Arra said. “They have a secondary residence in Grey-Bruce.”
A number of variants of COVID-19 have been identified and have since been found in Canada, including the B.1.1.7 variant which originated in the U.K., the B1.351 variant from South Africa and the P.1 variant from Brazil. Arra said he did not yet know which variant the individual isolating in Grey-Bruce has, but they know it is one of the three.
The variants are of particular concern because current reporting indicates the incubation period for them can be shorter, resulting in rapid transmission, making early containment essential.
To address the higher transmission rate seen with the new strains, the province has adopted a strategy to stop their spread, including mandatory testing of international travellers, enhanced screening and testing to identify the variants maintaining public health measures, stronger case and contact management, added protections for vulnerable people like those in long-term care and leveraging data to inform public health decisions.
Additionally, high-risk contacts and their households will be asked to follow more rigorous protocols.
Arra said there are always reason for concern, specifically with the variants, but he added that all the measures are in place to ensure a safe reopening.
Grey-Bruce moved back into the yellow (protect) category of the province’s reopening framework on Tuesday, which allowed many businesses and facilities to again allow customers inside for the first time since Boxing Day.
“Most people would think that our goal is to shut it down, to lock it in,” said Arra. “Our goal is exactly the opposite. To open it as fast as we can so long as it is safe.
“From that point of view, are we ready to open? Yes.”
Arra said the concern about the virus is still there, and should be with the variants, and it is important to continue to communicate that to everyone.
“We are still not out of the woods yet and the pandemic is not going to end before we have that level of herd immunity from the vaccine,” Arra said.
He reminded everyone of the importance of continuing to follow the health measures of washing one’s hands regularly, physical distancing and wearing a mask.
Arra said the fact the region was able to return to the yellow category is a success that everyone should celebrate.
“All of us have done what we needed to ensure this relatively good position,” he said, adding that he expects the region to move to the green category next week with the way the case numbers are going.
“If you asked me to bet the farm I would probably be reluctant, but it is with a high level of confidence that I say we are heading to the green.”