The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) catchment area has reached a milestone, but not necessarily one to be proud of. It was announced on Friday that one in 100 people in the area have now been infected with COVID-19.
“One in 100 is not a small likelihood, it does mean that there is a substantial risk within our population,” Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU said. “The risk is also being seen across our entire catchment area and there is no area that is safe. We are encouraging everyone to follow public health measures because the risk is significant.”
The NWHU warns that with variants of concern, this rate could increase quickly if people do not follow public health measures.
Young Hoon said employees working when they are not feeling well is a concerning trend that they have been seeing over the past few weeks.
Due to this trend and the increase in cases, Young Hoon said they will be enforcing a Class Section 22 Order and giving fines to individuals who attend work when having symptoms of COVID-19.
“Staying home when you’re sick reduces the number of cases, reduces the spread of COVID-19 and reduces the number of workplace cases and will help considering what we’re seeing lately,” Young Hoon said.
Young Hoon said the order particularly applies to people who are diagnosed with COVID-19, high risk close contacts of cases and people who have symptoms that could be COVID-19 and are awaiting those test results.
Those failing to comply with the order are liable for a fine of a minimum of $750.
The NWHU first issued this order in February of this year.
“If they have symptoms of COVID-19, even if it just seems like a cold, self-isolate and get tested,” Young Hoon said. “I know this is very challenging for individuals based on lots of potential reasons, but this is what’s required at this time, because the spread of COVID-19 is affecting all of us. And it can quickly lead to a situation where it’s out of control, particularly if there are variants of concern.”
Young Hoon said she hopes employers will support employees appropriately so they can get tested and wait for the results without it leading to financial barriers.
Paid sick leave is one way of supporting employees so they will stay home and prevent the spread of COVID-19, Young Hoon adds.
As of yesterday, there are 90 active cases in the region, one in the Atikokan health hub, four in the Dryden health hub, six in the Emo health hub, 26 in the Fort Frances health hub, 36 in the Kenora health hub, two in the Rainy River health hub, two in the Red Lake health hub and 13 in the Sioux Lookout health hub.
The NWHU has given out 27,411 doses of the vaccine so far.
Young Hoon stresses the importance of continuing to follow public health guidelines even when vaccinated, adding that one dose of the vaccine gives 70 to 80 per cent protection but there is still room for potentially being infected with COVID-19 after having the first dose.
As of Friday, those aged 55 and older are able to book their vaccine appointments directly using the ministry booking sites and by the end of May, anyone aged 18 and older will be eligible to book.
On Thursday the NWHU announced a workplace outbreak at the No Frills in Kenora. Young Hoon said the outbreak led to exposures to the staff but that there is no risk to the customers who shopped at the store unless they were not following public health measures.
There is continued follow up with employees at New Gold Mine. A department at the mine has been closed for two weeks to curb further spread both within the workplace and the community, Young Hoon said, adding that all cases and affected contacts have been told to self-isolate and cannot attend work at this time.
McMunn & Yates in Fort Frances continues to be in outbreak and all other outbreaks have been resolved.