Local health unit’s acting medical officer of health alarmed by rise in COVID cases

By Roderick Benns

Local health unit's acting medical officer of health alarmed by rise in COVID cases

With the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continuing to rise throughout the province, the local acting medical officer of health is urging area residents to do everything they can to stop the spread of the virus.

Dr. Ian Gemmill, Acting Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, is echoing comments made today by Premier Doug Ford when he said that today’s numbers are “scary,” and the province is in a “desperate situation” after reporting a record number of cases and deaths.

The province reported a record 4,249 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Even allowing for a data upload delay of about 450 means there are still about 3,800 newly confirmed infections.

“We too are seeing record numbers in our local area, and it is very worrisome,” said Gemmill. “Please don’t become complacent about this virus. It is very real and has caused deaths in the vulnerable, even in this area.”

Since the beginning of January, the local health unit has seen days with as many as 20 new cases. Today, the health unit is reporting 12 new cases for a cumulative total of 628 cases.

As well, it has reported 25 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, including four deaths in the past week. Three of the deaths were City of Kawartha Lakes residents, and one was a Northumberland County resident. While none of the deaths are related, those who have died have been high-risk contacts of a confirmed case.

“I want to offer my deepest condolences to those families who have lost loved ones during this pandemic,” he said. “It is a very sad time for so many people.”

To help to stem the sweeping tide of cases, Gemmill is urging people to follow the public health recommendations: stay home except for essential travel; do not socialize with people outside of your household, except by phone or computer; stay home if you are sick; wear a mask when you need to be out in public; maintain a physical distance of six feet from others; and wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

“Our actions affect other people,” said Gemmill says. “If you choose to get together with friends and you get the virus, you could just experience mild symptoms and recover. You could also spread the virus to someone else who is older and more vulnerable, and they may not be so lucky.”

Until everyone is vaccinated, Gemmill says following the public health measures is the only way to stop the spread of the virus. As reported previously by the Advocate, the province is currently rolling out the first phase of its vaccine distribution plan, vaccinating residents and staff in long-term care and retirement homes in areas of the province with the highest numbers of cases.

The health unit is working with area hospitals and health care partners to prepare for the next phase, which will see vaccine available in our local area, but that may not be until the spring, added Gemmill.

“Until we can get the vaccine into everyone’s arms, we need to remain vigilant and to continue to do our part to protect each other,” he said.

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