Two of the region’s four new cases are asymptomatic, according to Ian Gemmill, Acting Medical Officer of Health for the Northwestern Health Unit. These are the first asymptomatic cases for the region, and have forced the NWHU to modify its follow-up strategy.
“As I understand, the people who have had contacts with those asymptomatic cases are also getting tested because we don’t know enough about it,” Gemmill said. “We are diverging from the usual follow up and urging those who live in the same household of an asymptomatic person to get tested in order to understand how transmission happens.”
Gemmill said the asymptomatic individuals and those who were in contact with them will be in quarantine until the tests are back, and they will continue to be in isolation until the incubation period of the last infectious person in the household ends.
Fort Frances had its second case announced yesterday afternoon. That case is asymptomatic, and it is believed the individual contracted COVID-19 from work related travel. A case in Sioux Lookout is also asymptomatic. The woman in her 40s was tested as a routine protocol during a medical procedure. Her household and all medical attendants have been placed in quarantine. A case in Dryden earlier this week is symptomatic, and is recovering at home.
A new case was also reported in Red Lake this morning.
The first positive COVID-19 case in Fort Frances was confirmed on March 14. The now resolved case was an adult who returned to Fort Frances from an international trip.
The NWHU have carried out about 3,300 tests, including staff and residents of long term care facilities, Gemmill said. Of those individuals tested, about 2,000 have come back negative. This is a ratio of about one hundred negative results to one positive, but the results of more than 1,000 tests is still unknown.
Gemmill said the public are not at risk due to the number of pending tests in the area.
“I don’t see the number of pending tests being an issue, Gemmill said. “The vast majority of these people are not positive and they are staying in isolation until the results are back.”
Last week, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said Canadians should wear masks in public in situations where physical distancing is impossible.
Gemmill said there are a number of reasons why people might consider wearing a mask in public and in households where individuals are in close proximity to each other.
“It shows respect for others who have no choice but to be in public places, and as we begin to open things up, there are going to be situations where it will be difficult to keep the two metre distance,” Gemmill said. “While masks are not a requirement, they can be helpful.”
Gemmill is advising everyone to self-isolate, self-monitor, avoid unnecessary travel and to continue observing physical distancing and hand hygiene.
“This is not over or close to being over,” Gemmill said. “I want to remind people that the virus is still in the community even though the risks are quite low.”
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