NWHU issues order due to a recent spike

Natali Trivuncic
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) announced on Tuesday that it will be issuing a Class Section 22 Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. This went into effect yesterday and will remain in effect until the medical officer of health determines the order is no longer required.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU, said the order applies to anyone residing in or is present in the NWHU region who is required by public health to self-isolate. This includes cases of COVID-19, close contacts of COVID-19 cases and people who have symptoms that could be COVID-19.

The NWHU issued a release on Tuesday about the new order in which it states that throughout the pandemic there have been a few incidents of people not following self-isolation protocols for COVID-19 and some of those people were issued an individual Section 22 Order when other options did not work.

With the concern of variants coming into the region and the provincial shutdown being lifted, it is important for those who develop COVID-19 symptoms or have come in contact with someone who has, to self-isolate, Young Hoon said.

For the week of Feb.8 to Feb. 14, the region has had 70 new confirmed cases and one new probable case. There were 69 cases in the Kenora area, one in the Dryden area and one in the Sioux Lookout area. There were also two new hospitalizations that occurred. There are currently three people in the region hospitalized with COVID-19.

There are currently 71 active cases in the region, one in Dryden/Red Lake, 68 in the Kenora region and two in the Sioux Lookout region.

Of the 71 new cases in the area, 45 were closed contacts with known cases from an outbreak and 20 were related to the same outbreak.

Young Hoon said through their investigation, the NHWU has identified 157 people who had high risk close contacts with cases. This is an average of 2.2 new high risk close contacts per case, young Hoon adds.

“This has increased our incidence rate so it’s now at 81 cases per 100,000 population compared to 19 per 100,000 population the previous seven days. The positivity rate was 3.7 per cent compare to 0.7 per cent of the previous seven days,” Young Hoon said.

In order to try and contain rising case numbers, the NWHU and other enforcement officers can enforce the Class Section 22 Order. Failure to comply with the order is considered an offence in which individuals may be charged or liable for a ticket of $750 to a maximum of $5,000 or it can lead to an Order for Confinement under the court system.

Young Hoon said that if they receive information that an individual is not self-isolating appropriately, they will follow up with that individual or spend some time ensuring that the person is supported.

“Sometimes people are unable to self-isolate for a variety of different reasons whether it is they have no one to support them to get food or they don’t have a place to live,” Young Hoon said.

Although the NWHU is asking people to get tested if they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to the virus, Young Hoon said at this time testing is still considered voluntary.

Young Hoon said the case increase in Kenora is focused in one main community but there is the potential for spread to the broader area.

“I think now is a good time, even though we’re moving into yellow for everyone to be following public health measures in a very strict way,” Young Hoon said. “Physical distancing is particularly important so staying two metres away from anyone that’s not in your household and wearing masks in indoor spaces if you’re with people who are not from your household.”

Although gatherings are allowed both indoors and outdoors, the NWHU is encouraging people to try and gather outdoors and again maintain that two-meter distance from anyone not in their household.

At this time there are no COVID-19 variants of concern in NWHU’s catchment area.

Young Hoon said due to this spike in case numbers she will most likely be discussing with the province over the course of the week on the regions situation and how that may impact the response framework and the colour that the region is designated.

Young Hoon adds that it is difficult to think about a blanket restriction level for the entire catchment area and are therefore trying to explore potential options on ways to apply restrictions that are effective and useful.