C0VID-19: Area crosses 50-mark

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The-tri-county area had 52 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Friday afternoon, up a dozen from the previous day, as new information revealed the disease is present in a majority of local communities.


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The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit on Friday began releasing more detailed information about the local cases; without revealing where they are located, the new data confirmed the cases are “geographically spread” across the region, with 13 of the 21 municipalities in the health unit’s area reporting cases.

The number of COVID-19 deaths in the three counties remained at two, which are included on the overall number.

Health unit officials were dealing with a fourth COVID-19 outbreak at a seniors’s facility, this time at Lanark Lifestyles in Perth, where one staff member has tested positive.

The health unit added 40 per cent of local exposures are from people who travelled outside of the province in the past 14 days.

That means community spread is not only here, but is widespread, accounting for 60 per cent of cases.

In fact, given the lag between people being exposed to the novel coronavirus and testing positive for COVID-19, that 60 per cent figure is likely too low, said health unit epidemiologist John Cunningham.

“That’s probably an older stat,” he said.

He noted that nationally, more than 90 per cent of cases reported in the last seven days have been from person-to-person community contact rather than cases acquired while travelling.

The health unit’s numbers show 60 per cent of the local people with COVID-19 are female.

The median age of people infected is 64, health unit officials added. The youngest person with COVID-19 in the area is 16 years old, while the oldest is 95.


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Ten per cent of local cases are people aged 19 or younger, while 20-to-44-year-olds make up 23 per cent of cases. People aged 45 to 64 represent 20 per cent of the local cases, while the largest percentage, at 45 per cent, are aged 65 or older.

Fifteen per cent of the cases are people who are hospitalized, which the health unit considers “in line with Ontario and national situations,” while a quarter of them are health-care workers.

The percentage of health care workers is also “right on the button” compared with national figures, said Cunningham.

The four outbreaks at seniors’ facilities are all in the north end of the area: Two in Perth, one in Almonte and another in Carleton Place. However, Cunningham was not ready to draw any conclusions about that fact.

The local numbers came on one of the most discouraging days of the crisis so far, as new modelling suggested the province could see between 3,000 to 15,000 deaths due to COVID-19, over the span of 18 months to two years, with the current public health measures the province has in place.

Cunningham, whose work also involves creating models of the pandemic, said it’s not possible to draw local conclusions from those provincial figures.

But he also noted these models are planning tools, not crystal balls.

“I don’t think they want us to look at those numbers as being absolute,” said Cunningham.

“The models are there for scenario planning.”

“The unknown is what the effects of the social distancing are going to be or how this plays out in our community,” he added.


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“The arrow in our quiver is social distancing and washing our hands.”

Another factor weighing in this region’s favour is its largely rural nature, with population centres relatively further from each other, said Cunningham.

“We have that kind of natural social distancing anyway.”

Still, the coronavirus is behaving like other viruses, with a somewhat linear beginning followed by exponential increases.

“They just take off like a rocket ship and that’s the exponential phase,” said Cunningham.

“We are probably just in the beginning of the exponential phase (locally).”

Also Friday, the health unit reminded area residents that the province is prohibiting gatherings of more than five people, a restriction that will have to be observed despite Easter being around the corner.

“The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit recognizes that faith communities provide support during difficult times; however drawing people together either inside or outdoors increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19,” health unit officials said in a prepared statement.

“Significant religious holidays are quickly approaching and often these are accompanied by practices, ceremonies, rituals, and celebratory gatherings. The provincial order does include these in the prohibition of organized public events.”

That means such events as Easter meals, egg hunts and ceremonies are prohibited.

“Community meals providing food to our vulnerable populations may continue on a take-out and delivery basis provided they have received Health Unit approval.”

The statement adds that “getting out for a walk is completely acceptable at this time (as long as you are not under quarantine or self-isolation due to illness or exposure).”

But while fresh air and exercise – while keeping a two-metre distance from others – are healthy, they also carry the risk of another threat.

“Don’t forget to do a tick check,” said the health unit. “Warmer days are upon us and ticks are active; this may increase the risk of contracting Lyme disease.”

(With files from Postmedia Network.)

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