Crew of a transport ship isolating in Point Edward after testing positive for COVID-19

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Lambton Public Health is investigating COVID-19 cases from a commercial ship docked in Sarnia Harbour.

Lambton’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sudit Ranade says public health and Transport Canada removed members of the ship’s crew and transported them to a hotel in Point Edward.

“We have been made aware of a small number of cases that are related to the transportation industry,” says Ranade.

“We have performed contact investigation and management and are currently isolating five cases and 14 close contacts of those cases.”

None of the cases will be reported as Lambton County cases since everyone involved lives outside of the county.

“We have wrapped up our contact case investigation and have performed the usual public health functions of isolating the people who are either cases or close contacts,” says Ranade. “At this time we believe there’s a low risk of any other ongoing transmission from that source.”

There have been 346 people contract COVID-19 from Lambton County. Two are still sick after one person recovered.

The drop is in contrast to Ontario’s rising numbers. There were 538 new cases on Thursday, while the provincial testing backlog grew to more than 82,000. Almost 70 per cent of the new cases were in the Greater Toronto Area, and about 60 per cent were in people under 40 years old.

“We are now starting to reach levels that we have seen at the very beginning of this [pandemic] that resulted in widespread restrictions and closures,” says Ranade.

This means there will be difficult decisions in the coming weeks. “The policy question that’s being actively discussed is what are the interventions that we need to bring those numbers down. Do we have to go all the way back to closures, or can we do some targeted interventions that might make a difference? It’s unclear at this point what the best strategy should be,” Ranade says. 

“In terms of the likelihood of closures and restrictions, we are in a very challenging situation,” says Ranade. “We know that they work. But we also know that they have devastating impacts on the community the longer and longer they go. The challenge is what level of risk and what level of disease transmission are we prepared to accept as an ongoing baseline before we decide that more intervention is necessary.”

Ranade says many industries have learned a lot since the pandemic hit. “Some sectors were particularly badly hit, and those sectors now have the experience of what to do. On average I’d say they’re ready to roll into another wave if they need to, they have processes and systems in place.”

But he adds that areas that weren’t active during the worst of the pandemic may have a hard time adjusting to a second wave. “People are implementing precautions, but that’s a very different story from actually going through an outbreak yourself. That’s a place where we’re going to have to learn more as we go.”