By Jenn Watt
Health professionals are continuing to encourage the community to observe physical distancing and hand-washing practices with six cases of coronavirus in Haliburton County confirmed by the health unit as of Tuesday.
Details about the people who have tested positive for the virus such as which municipality they reside in or whether they have had contact with each other have not been made available to the public.
Dr. Norm Bottum of the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team said the message the public should be receiving from news that there are now several cases of COVID-19 within the county is that efforts should be made to stop the spread.
“If you are unwell and have any possible contact with COVID-19 positive individuals you should be doing the online assessment and if directed contact the assessment centre for a possible nasal swab” Bottum said in an email to the Times on Tuesday.
The Haliburton County COVID-19 Assessment Centre was opened March 31 in the parking lot outside the medical centre in Haliburton. Those seen at the centre must first do the online self-assessment and then make an appointment. The centre is available for those with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms.
Last week in an effort to separate potential COVID-19 cases from other health issues Haliburton Highlands Health Services reorganized its admissions with respiratory cases going to the Haliburton site and non-respiratory cases in Minden. It also expanded the number of beds available at both locations with 21 beds for COVID-19 needs in Haliburton and nine for non-COVID-19 admissions in Minden.
“It is important to first note that both the HHHS Minden and Haliburton sites are prepared to safely accept patients whether they are presenting with respiratory illness or not” a press release from HHHS issued April 8 states. “Staff are following strict safety precautions in all HHHS facilities including screening everyone who enters either site using personal protective equipment (PPE) and creating appropriate spacing for distancing between patients.”
People with respiratory symptoms who are intending to visit the emergency department are encouraged to go to the Haliburton site and those with other health concerns are asked to go to the Minden site – although no one will be turned away from either site.
“Care may be redirected between sites depending on care needs and COVID considerations” HHHS’s statement says. Respiratory symptoms include cough shortness of breath difficulty breathing and fever.
In an email to the paper following the first case of COVID-19 Stephanie MacLaren VP community programs reminded people there is community spread across the province.
“There has never been a more important time for each and every single resident of Haliburton County to follow the guidelines issued by public health – keeping physical distance from anyone who doesn’t reside in your home staying home other than essential outings for groceries prescriptions or medical care frequently washing your hands (for at least 20 seconds each time) and self-
isolating if you have any symptoms of COVID-19” she said.
As of Tuesday April 14 along with the six cases in Haliburton County the local health unit has reported 109 confirmed cases in Kawartha Lakes which includes those affected by the outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home and 14 confirmed cases in Northumberland for a total of 129 confirmed cases in the HKPR District Health Unit area.There have been seven hospitalizations 33 deaths and one outbreak related to COVID-19 in the HKPR District Health Unit area as reported on the HKPR website.
Space has been made available at Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre for HHHS staff “who would feel more comfortable staying in a location other than their home residence after their shifts or are challenged working extra-long hours commuting home only to have to turn around and commute right back to work” HHHS CEO Carolyn Plummer said in her weekly update issued April 10. “These accommodations will not be used by any staff who have to self-isolate.” The HHHS CEO also asked members of the public not to bring food donations to staff and physicians who cannot accept the donations. She advised that donations are better directed to local food banks.
“I also want to recognize all of the efforts being made community-wide to pull together support one another and deliver services and materials to those in need” she said. “From the emergency responder parades through Haliburton and Minden villages to the messages of thanks for frontline workers to the creative collaborations and innovative changes to ‘business as usual’ – thank you for lifting our spirits working to protect the health and safety of our community and showing kindness in the face of hardship.”
The online coronavirus self assessment can be found at Ontario.ca/coronavirus. If directed by the self-assessment call the Haliburton Family Medical Centre at 705-457-1212 (press 6) to set up an appointment.