Recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in Northumberland County ‘concerning’: warden

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Recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in Northumberland County ‘concerning’: outgoing warden
The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in Northumberland County has nearly tripled in the last month. Mark Giunta reports – Dec 16, 2020

The total number of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Northumberland County has tripled in the last month.

On Nov. 13, the cumulative total since the start of the pandemic in Northumberland was 57; that total hit 174 on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

There has also been a recent uptick in the number of positive active cases with 15 new cases reported on Monday and another four on Tuesday and three on Wednesday, bringing the total number of active cases to 43.

“It’s concerning. Whenever you see an uptick, it’s a bit of a concern,” said county warden Bob Sanderson. “As a result of the uptick, Northumberland has gone from green-prevent to yellow-protect (under the Ontario’s Colour-Coded COVID-19 Framework).”

READ MORE: COVID-19: Student cases at Cobourg, Brighton Castleton schools; health unit surpasses 400 cases

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Of the 174 cases, 130 are reported as resolved.

Sanderson said the Dec. 4 decision to move the region into the yellow zone was the appropriate move.

The yellow-protect coding will remain in effect for 28 days from the day it was implemented, Dec. 7. That said, at any time, should cases dramatically increase, the region could move to more restrictive measures like the Greater Toronto Area.

“The risk is increasing and Christmas is right around the corner,” he said. “I’m quite pleased, actually, that we raised the level of awareness because I believe that is what it does. Sure, the whole region gets blanketed with that, but, for me, it’s about individuals.”

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Sanderson noted the region did a good job in the spring, summer and early fall to keep the case levels low before the recent uptick.

According to the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPRDHU), there are 149 current high-risk contacts in Northumberland County as of Wednesday.

Dr. Ian Gemmill, the acting HKPRDHU medical officer of health, tells Global News, that approximately 30 per cent of cases in Northumberland are household contacts, 25 per cent are close contacts, and 20 per cent are related to outbreaks.

“For all of these reasons, until we get a good vaccine in place — and that is on its way — and we’re at the beginning of this process, we’re going to see increases,” he said.

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“In a way, we’re keeping our thumb on the hose to control this so that we don’t have problems with hospital beds, intensive care units (ICU) and overwhelming the system. If we can keep that control until such time as the vaccine has time to take effect and we have a lot of people immunized to give us some community protection, we’re going to see cases.”

Dr. Gemmill is hopeful enough people will be vaccinated by next fall for some of the restrictions to be relaxed.

He says HKPRDHU is still in the planning process for the rollout in Northumberland, City of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton and it’s still unknown when vaccines will arrive in this area.

For that reason, Dr. Gemmill says the best course of action right now is to not gather groups, especially during the holiday season.

“It is a winter’s virus, like the other respiratory viruses that we know about. There will be increases and increased risks over the winter, so we really have to double our efforts to make sure we and our families don’t get exposed,” Dr. Gemmill said.

“We shouldn’t travel unless it’s essential. Don’t gather. Gathering is where I see cases flourish and outbreaks occur.”

READ MORE: COVID-19: Outbreak declared at Extendicare Kawartha Lakes in Lindsay

In normal years, this time of year is usually busy for Northumberland Hills Hospital (NHH) with respiratory viruses such as the flu.

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“We’re busy. We’ve seen our occupancy grow over the last two months and now we’re seeing some positive COVID-19 patients as inpatients, but not that frequently yet. We’re seeing a number of other patients as well,” said hospital president and CEO Linda Davis.

Davis said NHH has been operating at “well over capacity” for some time and that it’s monitoring it to find where the pressure points are.

But the hospital hasn’t had to push into alternate spaces for patients.

“We’ve been fortunate to get additional ICU beds, so we’ve expanded our ICU, which is what we feel we need to do to support a surge. We have had a plan in place since wave one, in-terms of a separate unit to isolate patients in. We would automatically continue with that. The biggest issue is the ability to surge for more inpatient capacity.”

Davis tells Global News there is one COVID-19 positive patient in the ICU.

There are three testing sites in Northumberland County, including NHH, Campbellford Memorial Hospital and the Port Hope Community Hub in Canton.

The sites are seeing a combined 150 to 175 patients per day.

“We’re able to flex the amount we can do, depending on demand. So we’ve had extra people on-site, when needed, to capture the demand,” said Susan Brown, chief of Northumberland Paramedics.

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Brown says paramedics do three to four home appointments per day as well, which are for those with reduced mobility or driving capacities or for those who are very sick.

To book an appointment for a test at the sites at NHH or Canton, call 705-377-7783 and for the Campbellford site, call 705-395-1801.


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