As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Grey-Bruce hit 40 Tuesday, the local public health unit announced it’s expanding the eligibility criteria for novel coronavirus testing beyond the updated provincial recommendations.
Medical officer of health Dr. Ian Arra said along with the province’s expanded list, testing will also be available at local assessment centres for people with new or worsening respiratory symptoms and who have heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, are immunocompromised, have an autoimmune disease or are taking immunomodulating medications, are transplant recipients or donors, are on dialysis or have cancer.
“These people are the vulnerable population who might suffer from more severe complications. So, if we had some diagnosis early on, it might not change our strategy in treating them, but the knowledge of it might change the management of different aspects of treatment,” Arra said in an interview.
Late last week, the province said it was implementing the next phase of its strategy to “significantly expand and enhance COVID-19 testing” in Ontario.
That included proactively testing: hospital inpatients; residents of long-term care and retirement homes; health care workers, caregivers, paramedics, police officers and firefighters; people in remote, isolated, rural and Indigenous communities; people in homeless shelters, prisons and group homes; specific vulnerable populations such as patients undergoing chemotherapy, pregnant persons, newborns and cross-border workers; and other essential workers.
Arra said he believes performing the on-site tests at long-term care facilities, in Indigenous communities and at shelters/residential facilities is key to preventing disease.
“We’re planning to do testing right there and the goal is twofold. One, to provide the service as close as possible so people don’t have to go to the assessment centres and potentially acquire disease,” he said.
“And the second reason is – those populations might not be able to get to the assessment centre for many reasons related to economics.”
Arra said public health is working with nursing stations and health centres at First Nations communities to ensure they have the training and medical directive to conduct the tests.
For community shelters, he said public health might use paramedics to conduct testing.
“I don’t know if we’re going to utilize EMS for every one of them or part of them, but it will be an added layer of ensuring the service is delivered,” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Grey Bruce Health Unit announced that one new case of COVID-19 had been reported in the past 24 hours in the two counties.
The latest case involves a man in his 40s who is isolated.
Ten of the 40 confirmed cases have recovered, while one is currently hospitalized. Thirteen cases have been reported in health care workers.
One facility – Maple View long-term care home in Owen Sound – has a COVID-19 outbreak.
Owen Sound still has the most lab-confirmed cases in the region at 20, followed by West Grey with four.
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Ontario Health has announced the local launch of an online tool to help people with coronavirus concerns navigate the health care system.
The COVID-19 Population Health Navigator, available at covid19checkup.ca, will help physicians and nurse practitioners guide patients through points of care – the province’s self-assessment tool, TeleHealth, doctors’ offices, assessment centres and local hospitals – in the right order and in the fastest time, according to Ontario Health.
“The primary objective is to reduce the volume of unnecessary visits to assessment centres and emergency departments,” local physician Dr. Keith Dyke said in a statement. “We invite local residents and primary care providers to use this online tool now, which will improve care, reduce pressure on the healthcare system and provide public health with the insights needed to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
The tool will connect primary care providers with the people who need their help the most and help them follow the right processes and guidance based on their patient’s unique circumstances, the statement said. The tool also tracks patient flow and collects important public health data about trends in real time.
“We are taking every step we can to ensure the Navigator is easy for primary care providers to adopt and implement for the benefit of their patients and staff,” said Dyke. “We will provide hands-on training and other tools covering everything primary care providers need to know.”
Primary care providers interested in receiving more information or registering with the COVID-19 navigation tool can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The health science company Nordion is processing and distributing this week the latest harvest of Cobalt-60 from Bruce Power’s Unit 6 reactor to help medical facilities in their fight against COVID-19.
The isotope is used in gamma irradiation, which ensures medical equipment and supplies, such as surgical gloves, syringes and COVID-19 test kits, are sterilized, clean and safe for use, according to Bruce Power.
Most of the world’s Cobalt-60 comes from Ontario’s nuclear facilities operated by Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation, which provide supply to Nordion.
Given the high demand for single-use medical equipment during the current COVID-19 crisis, the need for irradiation has increased, Bruce Power says. While other sterilization methods take up to seven days before products are available for use, Gamma irradiation technology can process such materials within a day.
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The Durham Agricultural Society has decided to cancel the Durham Fall Fair due to the COVID-19 situation.
President Deb Tucker said the theme of this year’s fair, which had been set for the Labour Day weekend, will be used in 2021.
She said planning for the fair begins as soon as the previous year’s event wraps up. For the 2019 event, volunteers logged a total of 8,641 hours to plan, organize, set up, present, take down and evaluate the fair.
With many local businesses closed due to the pandemic, Tucker said the organization did not feel it “should try to add to that burden by asking for money and more time from those focusing on family, worried about their jobs and just wanting to navigate this trying situation.”