More cases across the region

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer
memara@fortfrances.com

The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) announced 42 new active cases on Tuesday, just one day before the province entered a modified version of step two on the road map to reopening.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU, said these restrictions are in place due to the increase in hospitalizations that are being seen across the province. 

“With the added public health restrictions that have been implemented in the province, that will likely lead to a blunting of the increase but that would not be noted probably for a couple of weeks,” she said. “We will be assisting local businesses, workplaces, and organizations as needed to ensure that they are following all measures that apply to them.”

Some of the changes that came into effect this morning include social gathering limits of five people indoors and 10 people outdoors. Capacity for retail settings and personal care services will be kept at 50 per cent, no indoor dining at restaurants, closure of indoor sports and recreational facilities. Remote learning is also in effect until at least Jan. 17. 

Young Hoon also said PCR testing is no longer available for everyone with symptoms. Publicly funded PCR testing is now available for those in high-risk settings including vulnerable individuals or those with significant medical issues who are symptomatic or at risk of severe illness for COVID-19.

Young Hoon added that the shift in testing mechanisms means that our testing numbers will not be an accurate representation of cases in our area. 

“The more important statistics to pay attention to would include percent positivity, number of hospitalizations and number of outbreaks in high-risk settings as this information more accurately represents the impact of the virus in our region,” she said. 

There are now four COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region. 

Under this new provincial guidance, Young Hoon said anyone with symptoms who fails the screening tool and is not eligible for testing should assume they have COVID-19 and self-isolate as recommended. 

Self-isolation requirements have changed and can be as short as five days. 

Individuals who are vaccinated as well as to children under 12 will be required to isolate five days following the onset of symptoms, Young Hoon said. But if you are 12 years or older who is partially or not vaccinated, the isolation period is 10 days. 

“We will be assisting local businesses, workplaces, and organizations as needed to ensure that they are following all measures that apply to them,” Young Hoon said. 

The health unit has administered 160,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and Young Hoon said they have large-scale clinics running throughout January and February. 

In addition, effective immediately residents of long-term care homes, retirement homes, and older adults living in other congregate settings are eligible for a fourth dose of an mRNA vaccine after at least three months have passed since the third dose.