Dr. Ian Gemmill answers frequently asked questions

Merna Emara
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Dr. Ian Gemmill is the acting medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU). Jon Begg, communications and public relations specialist at the NWHU administers and conducts weekly public meeting streamed on either NWHU’s Facebook page or GoTo Meeting sessions to answer questions. To find out how to participate in the next Question and Answer session with Dr. Gemmill, visit the NWHU online, or see the About Town listing on Page 2. Here are some of the questions Gemmill received.

Is it acceptable for residents in northwestern Ontario to travel to Winnipeg for non-medical reasons?

“We’re in an exceptional time. Even though numbers in the northwest are not quite high, I’m much more comfortable promoting the policy of the government of Ontario which is stay in your home. Easy to remember. It is very important to understand that travel is what will move this virus around. What I would encourage people to do is take advantage of the lovely area that is northwestern Ontario and do things in a healthy responsible way, while taking all precautionary measures. We are discouraging people from travelling except for essential services.”

When are we going to have garage sales again?

“Keep tuned to what the government of Ontario is doing. They may be in phase two which is not very long away. I know the government of Ontario wants to get things to open up quickly and safely as they can. The thing with garage sales is you have a number of things being handled by a number of people and while the touching is not the most important way that this virus is transmitted, the most important way is by droplet. People coughing, sneezing, shouting, singing or close physical contact with other people. We want to be as safe as possible. This can be addressed with the use of hand hygiene. I would encourage even after the garage sales have opened up again to take some hand sanitizer with you.”

Is there a clear recommendation of how many family members can assemble in the same household?

“It depends on what the behaviour is. This is something that families need to talk about it. We know that older people are at a high risk of complications. It requires families sitting down and having an open discussion about what they are or are not willing to do and how likely it is that they will have to, for work reasons or other reasons, break that circle of separation. It can be a dozen people if everybody is maintaining and observing the in what they do. But if you have one person in even a couple of people working as a frontline worker, that will theoretically put the other person at risk. I can’t really say what the number is, but what I can say is that it is really important for every family to have this discussion.”

Do we have to isolate if we travel Thunder Bay for a medical appointment?

“We are not recommending that there needs to be isolation if you are travelling within the country. Thunder Bay is low risk, the whole north is. The best advise that I can give is to self-monitor. That means go about your normal business while being protective of yourself and others. Wash your hands a lot. Wear is a mask. But the most important things is monitoring, self-awareness about symptoms and if any symptoms show up with regard to the virus go and get tested. This is about being sensible and having common sense.”

Do you think the protests in the United States will cause an increase in the numbers of COVID-19 cases there? If so, do you think our border closure with the United States should be extended?
“I think there is no doubt that they will. There has been shouting and things that spread droplets. I would be very surprised if we don’t see a increase in the numbers of cases in the U.S. As far as the border closure, this is a government of Canada decision. My personal opinion is it should not be open until we are feeling quite confident that it is in the best interest of our citizens to do so . I say that having a daughter who lives in the United States and we have not seen her for several months now. This is not my decision, but if the government of Canada asked for my advice, I would say keep the borders closed until the risk will not be significant for the people who live in our area.”