“We still need to be cautious after stage 3:” Gemmill

Merna Emara
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Dr. Ian Gemmill, the acting medical health officer for the Northwestern Health Unit, said even though Ontario is entering stage 3 of lifting up restrictions, Ontario residents should be cognizant of precautionary measures such as maintaining a physical distance and good hand hygiene.

“We need to be cautious about bars because there have been some outbreaks at bars in different parts of Canada, and we do know that bars get noisy and that’s when we speak louder which can facilitate droplets,” Gemmill said. “Our job in this period of time is to keep reminding people of rules, and there will still be rules that apply as we move into stage 3 in terms of social distancing and all those kinds of things.”

Premier Doug Ford announced that Ontario is entering its third stage of lifting up restrictions that were in place since March. On Friday, there will be an increase of indoor gatherings to 50, outdoor gatherings to a 100. Dine-in restaurants, gyms, casinos and other recreational facilities will also be allowed to operate under safe guidelines.

Gemmill said people will be happy about stage 3, but numbers have to be respected along with the rules that are in place.

“It is not going to be the same as it was before in terms of the requirements that will be in place even when these new businesses are allowed to reopen,” Gemmill said.

Along with entering the new stage of reopening, masks are now mandatory in all indoor public spaces such as malls, grocery stores and restaurants in some municipalities, such as Ottawa. Gemmill said this would be a strong recommendation in the northwest based on the fact that we have not had any secondary transmission or community spread at this time.

“Masks do have a rule, and it is not protecting me the mask wearer against getting infected, it is actually to protect others from the mask wearer who many be infected,” Gemmill said. “That is the subtle nuance that we need to keep reminding people of.”

About three weeks ago, six asymptomatic positives were announced at the Meno Ya Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout. The quarantine and isolation periods for both the asymptomatic positives and their contacts is over. Since then, there were no secondary transmission cases were found.

“I’m very happy to tell you that no secondary cases have been identified,” Gemmill said. “We are pretty lucky in that way.”

In reporting on positive cases, Gemmill said specific procedures have to be followed.

“We are having discussions internally on how it will be best to report on our cases while respecting two things. One is transparency because we want you and the public to know what is going on in terms of where we are,” Gemmill said.

“We also need to figure out how best we can respect privacy. It is very important that people who are infected by Coronavirus are not singled out or identified publicly and we want to ensure that those kinds of precautions are in place as well. We have not made a change yet, but this is something that we are looking at based on some of the feedback we have been getting from the public and internally as well.”