Mayor says region is weeks behind rest of province for COVID-19

Apr 24, 2020

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While Ontario officials suggested earlier this week that the provincial community spread cases of COVID-19 appear to have peaked, Timmins Mayor George Pirie says we must focus on the local situation.

“We know that within the Porcupine Health Unit’s catchment area we’re about perhaps 2.5 maybe three weeks behind the rest of the province. And when there’s announcements out there about the province, we can hold them in reserve. We can put them at the back of your mind because what we’re dealing with here is the cases of COVID-19 and the situation of COVID-19 that’s related directly to the Porcupine Health Unit. That’s what we’re focused on, that’s what we all must be focussed on,” said Pirie today at the daily health table update.

Timmins and District Hospital president and CAO Blaise MacNeil also broke down what the peak of the virus means.

“Typically when a virus is starting you go into a curve that’s an exponential increase and then by flattening that curve it’s really what you’re trying to do to stop the rate of increase,” he explained.

A peak, he said, isn't necessarily a point in time.

“Often times a virus is a very messy business and it fluctuates up and down around the peak and then once it starts to decline the curve starts to normalize again. Being at peak is not a single moment in time and the length of time we’re at a peak is also not really a definitive bit of time either, it’s a very fluid situation,” he said.

Today, the Porcupine Health Unit reported one new case of the virus in Timmins. The woman in her 30s is an employee at Timmins and District Hospital.

While she was not identified as part of the current outbreak at the facility, the health unit investigation is looking for potential linkages.

An outbreak of the virus was declared at the facility Sunday, April 19 after a patient tested positive. Since then, two staff and two patients identified through the investigation tested positive.

Neither the health unit or MacNeil could say where in the hospital the new case is.

“As a matter of practice, we wouldn’t share details that could potentially compromise the identity of the particular staff member and violate their privacy,” said MacNeil, adding it doesn't seem to be attributable to the outbreak.

As the hospital works closely with the health unit for the investigations, MacNeil said they are using an abundance of caution.

“The moment the notification was received our staff responded, we started the contact-tracing process. We will continue to work closely with the Porcupine Health Unit regarding all additional testing requirements for both staff and patients,” he said.

He also has a request for the community.

“If you are in need of medical attention, please answer all the screening questions honestly. We understand that with the increased nice weather the allergy season is upon us, however answering screening questions honestly allows us to quickly respond and ensure both staff and patients are safe,” he said.

“The hospital is a direct reflection of our community. It’s been confirmed that there is community spread with COVID-19 and what’s happening at the hospital currently is mirroring our community. Our region continues to see a higher percentage of reports of positive than the remainder of the north, while we do not have the answers to why this is it clearly supports the need for expanded testing criteria and continuing to adhere to social distancing that was announced.”

There are COVID-19 Assessment centres in Timmins, Cochrane, Iroquois Falls, Kapuskasing, Hearst and Hornepayne.They are by appointment only and you must be referred by your primary healthcare provider or the health unit.

The PHU COVID-19 hotline is open during the week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.It can be reached at705-267-1181or1-800-461-1818.

The health unit is doing expanded testing on people with milder symptoms for a limited time.

The expanded list of symptoms include cough, fever, and difficulty breathing as well as sore throat/hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing, loss of smell or taste, fatigue, muscle aches, runny nose, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and nausea or vomiting.

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