COVID-19 cases underestimated in the NWHU region

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer
memara@fortfrances.com

There are currently 365 active cases in the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), but Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU, said this is an underestimate of the total number of cases due to testing eligibility and the newest guidelines.

Young Hoon said the number of positive cases reported in the Sioux Lookout health hub include the First Nations communities.

“The Omicron variant has been seen in communities across the region,” Young Hoon said. “Not all samples are tested for Omicron anymore but it is likely to be in most if not all communities in our area.”

With a 17.71 percentage positivity, seven hospitalizations and 13 deaths, Young Hoon said she recommends that residents have essential items on hand in case they are required to self-isolate.

“With a high percent positivity rate, it is likely that many households will need to self isolate within the coming days and weeks. Items to purchase include pain relief medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, frozen or canned fruit and vegetables, other non-perishable food items, personal hygiene products, and cleaning supplies,” she said.

The new guidelines from the Ontario province require anyone with symptoms to isolate for five days if fully vaccinated or under 12 years old, or 10 days for anyone not fully vaccinated that is aged 12 or older. All household members have to stay home while the symptomatic individual is isolating, Young Hoon said.

Young Hoon added that PCR testing is no longer available for much of the population, and anyone with symptoms should assume they have COVID-19.

“People with symptoms of COVID-19 and their household members must self-isolate and should assume their illness is COVID-19,” Young Hoon said. “Testing is not necessary for those who do not live, work, or visit high risk settings, as defined by the Ministry of Health.”

Furthermore, Young Hoon said, workplaces should not require a negative corporate test for the employees to re-enter the workplace. Depending on vaccination status, risk level of the workplace and symptom improvement, they will have to self-isolate for five to 10 days.

With the province deciding to reopen schools and in-person classes, Young Hoon said school closures have been documented to have a negative effect on the children’s health.

“Looking at their risks and benefits, it is better to keep schools open,” she added. “I think parents should continue to speak to their child about the importance of following public health advice while at school. Generally, I think the school setting is a place where the benefits significantly outweigh the risks with COVID-19. And so I do encourage parents to have that discussion with their child if they are concerned.”