By Sue Tiffin
Haliburton County is seeing an influx in requests for COVID-19 testing accordingto the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team possibly in response toPremier Doug Ford’s weekend public plea that Ontario residents gettested.
“Our numbers [of those being tested] from last week to thisweek have tripled but we are doing everything we can to meet thedemand” said Kimberley Robinson HHFHT executive director and officemanager. “I would surmise that it relates directly to Premier DougFord’s announcement on Sunday May 24. His plea was that everyone should be tested which differs from the MOH testing strategy that calls forsymptomatic patients or asymptomatic patients who are concerned thatthey have been exposed (people who are contacts of or may have beenexposed to a confirmed or suspected case or who are at risk throughtheir employment) to COVID-19 to be tested.”
Robinson noted thehealth team is encouraging testing for the residents she defined andhave increased hours to meet the demand.
“We had been reducing thehours of the assessment centre due to decreased demand from those whowere having symptoms possibly related to COVID 19 which makes sense ascold and flu season are waining and we have not had a significant COVID19 out break here” Dr. Norm Bottum of the HHFHT told the Times. “Nowwith asymptomatic testing we have seen a marked spike in phone calls! We definitely want to keep on testing those that have symptoms of concernor have had possible contact with COVID-19 cases. Those will be ourhighest priority. But we will now book appointments at the assessmentcentre for anyone who would like to be tested.”
Though initiallyMinistry of Health guidelines suggested only those with one or moreparticular symptoms of the novel coronavirus – namely a fever or acough alongside travel – be tested the province’s testing strategy has increasingly added symptoms that qualify residents for tests. ACOVID-19 self-assessment on the province’s website lists symptoms thatinclude: fever chills cough that’s new or worsening shortness ofbreath sore throat runny nose lost sense of taste or smell pink eye unusual or long-lasting headache digestive issues muscle achesextreme tiredness falling down and sluggishness or lack of appetite inchildren.
In their May 25 social media post the HHFHT noted theassessment centre is open but an appointment is required “to helpcontrol volume and maintain the safety of our team … You will not be‘turned away’ but we may not have capacity to test you the day youcall.”
“We are going to look at our protocols and look atopportunities to increase our screening capacity” said Bottum.“Certainly those individuals without symptoms can be screened much morequickly than those with symptoms and we will be seeing more of theformer.”
“We are also looking into opportunities along with thehospital and EMS services to increase screening capacity to groups athighest risk namely those businesses with a lot of customer contacte.g. grocery and hardware stores.”
Bottum said further details on this would be shared over the next week.
The Haliburton County assessment centre has completed 244 swabs as of May25. Seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Haliburton County have beenrecorded as resolved since April. Currently the May 26 cumulative dataon confirmed cases within the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge DistrictHealth Unit notes one case in Haliburton as being a current high-riskcontact which the health unit’s website defines as being anasymptomatic individual who is known to have been in contact with aconfirmed or probable case. In total the HKPRDHU which includes theCity of Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland reported 170 confirmed cases with 145 of those being resolved.
Last Friday the HKPRDHU offeredan update on outbreaks in the region. One staff person tested positivefor COVID-19 at Kawartha Lakes retirement residence in Bobcaygeoncausing an outbreak to be declared on May 12 an asymptomatic residenttested positive for COVID-19 at Empire Crossing retirement residence inPort Hope causing an outbreak to be declared May 16 and an asymptomatic staff person tested positive for COVID-19 at Fenelon Court long-termcare home causing an outbreak to be declared May 18. Outbreaks involving one resident being tested positive for COVID-19 that were declared May 4 at Caressant Care Mary in Lindsay and Maplewood nursing home inBrighton were declared over on May 22.
Please note that testing is by appointment only. An online self-assessment is available atOntario.ca/coronavirus. During regular business hours call theHaliburton County COVID-19 Community Assessment Centre at 705-457-1212and press 6 or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.