Workplace outbreak declared in Pickle Lake

Natali Trivuncic
Staff writer

The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) announced a workplace outbreak in Pickle Lake on Friday. There are two confirmed cases and no probable cases at this time.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU said in confirming 134 COVID-19 cases since March, the NWHU has also followed up with nearly 600 close contacts along the way.

Young Hoon said that contact tracing and implementing control measures quickly has prevented the spread of COVID-19 in the region.

One of the cases in Pickle Lake is part of the new cases in the Sioux Lookout region. The second confirmed case has not been added to the NWHU’s case numbers because the infected person is from another jurisdiction. However, both cases are being considered by NWHU while managing the outbreak situation.

Young Hoon said that they are working with the employer to make sure infection control measures are in place to stop the spread of the virus.

These measures include enhancing screening of staff and reminding them if they feel unwell they need to stay home or stay isolated from everyone else. As well, ensuring that enhanced cleaning measures have been put in place, particularly high touch areas, ensuring that individuals are physically distancing and wearing masks if they are indoors or if coming within two metres of each other, and staggering shifts in order to reduce interaction during lunch hours or transportation.

Young Hoon said this outbreak scenario differs from others because employees also live on site. This means that the living quarters must also be cleaned and they again remind employees to follow public health measures when they are not working.

The NWHU has also added a PDF document with more detailed information added below the data tables on the website for those in the community to access. The data still uses the same geographical regions, but it includes further data related to outbreak demographics, exposure sources, test rates, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

Young Hoon said the data will hopefully help the public better understand the regions statistics and how it compares to Ontario as a whole. Currently the file is updates daily. However, if case numbers do not change substantially that may switch to weekly updates.

Although cases in the region remain steady, Young Hoon said that there is no discussion of moving back into the green level anytime soon, adding that the region must remain in the yellow level for at least 28 days before considering changing it.

“It’s useful to monitor case numbers for a period of time to really get a good sense of the trend in the situation and not reacting too quickly if numbers start coming down,” Young Hoon said.