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Testing increases as two new COVID-19 cases lifts regional total to 68

Posted: April 24, 2020

(April 23, 2020)

By: Greg Cowan, The Sun Times

Two new lab-test confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus turned up in Grey-Bruce in the past 24 hours bringing the total number of cases in the region to 68.

The Grey Bruce Health Unit is rolling out a recently developed plan to test all residents and staff in long-term care facilities. It’s expected the plan will take two weeks to complete.

Currently, only Maple View Long-Term Care Home in Owen Sound has a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak.

Village Seniors in Hanover and Pinecrest Manor in Lucknow implemented outbreak procedures earlier this month due to unidentified respiratory outbreaks. Test results from both are pending.

Dr. Ian Arra, Grey-Bruce’s medical officer of health said Thursday that increased testing can help reduce anxiety among the public, but that it’s not a “silver bullet”.

“Testing everybody in one lump of time does not carry that value that everybody seems to think it does,” he said.

In long-term care homes, only a single positive test is needed to implement the strictest outbreak procedures to reduce the risk of transmission, Arra said.

He said testing a wider segment of the population, rather than just the groups expected to have a high prevalence of the virus, will dilute the data.

“The positive predictive value suffers and will go way lower than optimal. If we tested like we’ve tested in the past six weeks . . . groups where we would expect the prevalence of the disease to be high . . . the screening tests we have will perform well and we can trust these results,” he said.

And, while he said mass-testing has no scientific value, we’ve reached a point where it could provide a social benefit.

“There is so much anxiety in the public . . . so from a social intervention point of view, I think it’s scientifically sound . . . so for that, I’m all-in,” he said.

He warned that people should remain vigilant because infected people are presenting without symptoms, and could be spreading the virus unknowingly. Arra noted that 12 of the 22 residents who tested positive at Maple View had no symptoms.

“This is a hard finding. It just tells you and me – us – we could be carrying the disease with no symptoms. We really need to comply with the social distancing if we’re really going to protect people,” he said. “We need to assume everybody we meet in Grey-Bruce, symptoms or not, has the potential and risk for transmission.”

* * *

The province’s public health figures released Thursday morning show 54 more COVID-19 related deaths occurred in the past 24 hours alongside 634 new cases of the disease.

The figures revealed that to date, there have been 516 deaths of long-term residents and five deaths among long-term care staff.

However, the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) announced Thursday that public health figures are lagging behind the reality of the COVID-19 fallout in some health-care settings.

An OHC report estimates that almost 3,800 residents and staff of health-care facilities have contracted COVID-19 with at least 10 deaths, and 80 long-term care homes across the province have experienced major outbreaks.

The OHC say they have tracked 238 outbreaks in long-term care of similar settings, including 69 in retirement homes.

Ontario public health has reported 135 outbreaks in long-term care facilities and 37 in hospitals.

* * *

Only 24 per cent of people surveyed by Workforce Planning West are working in their usual place of business, according to results from their recent COVID-19 Worker Impact Survey.

As people stay home to limit the spread of COVID-19, and non-essential businesses have been ordered closed, the majority of workers surveyed are either working from home or temporarily without work.

Out of a sample size of 1,800 people, 713 were working from home and 607 people were temporarily out of work, due to the COVID-19 fallout. Over 550 people were still working at their regular place of business. Sixty-eight people surveyed said they had permanently lost work.

The survey asked people about the extent to which a worker’s employment status might have changed
since March 2.

Workforce Planning West is sharing the results so all policy and decision-makers have a better understanding of how the crisis has impacted jobs and families in the region.

* * *

Canada Post said Thursday that “Christmas-level” parcel volumes are resulting in delays across the country.

Post offices are processing and delivering parcels at levels normally experienced only during the busiest weeks of the Christmas season as Canadians self isolate and rely on shopping from home.

On April 20, Canada Post delivered 1.8 million parcels across the country.

Canada Post is advising customers to expect delays as a result.

Physical distancing measures in Canada Post facilities are also contributing to the slower than normal delivery times.

Expected parcels can be tracked online at canadapost.ca or by using the Canada Post phone app.

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