Lambton’s warning sign; ‘We’re picking up steam’

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Dr. Sudit Ranade, Lambton's Acting Medical Officer of Health,

Ten people test positive of COVID-19 Wednesday, two new workplace outbreaks

Heather Wright/The Independent

Lambton’s Medical Officer of Health is sounding the alarm bells. Dr. Sudit Ranade says the recent increase in number of people contracting COVID-19 in Lambton is a warning to the community.

Wednesday, 10 more people tested positive for the virus in Lambton. There are also two new workplace outbreaks – in one, two people are ill, in the other three people tested positive. Public health doesn’t release where workplace outbreaks are unless they feel there is a threat to the public.

Shell’s Sarnia Manufacturing Centre and Nova Chemical’s Corunna Cracker unit confirmed last week they are also are dealing COVID-19 outbreaks.

Yesterday, another person passed away who had COVID-19. Ranade said again this was a case of the virus making underlying health conditions worse, leading to the person’s death.

Ranade, who usually strikes a positive note in his news briefings, was blunt about his concerns. “We think that this is an indicator of an upward trend of cases,” he told reporters Thursday morning.

” I have described it as grumbling in the past, but it is no longer grumbling. I think we’re picking up steam, we’re seeing more cases every day, and almost no days without cases. And both of those things are relevant.”

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Ranade says people have to return to following the restrictions closely. He’s particularly concerned that people with mild COVID-19 symptoms aren’t staying home. “There are many folks who think, Oh, just a head cold, oh, it’s just this is just that, it’s not a big deal, that actually could be COVID.” Ranade urges people to stay home, even with the slightest symptoms and get a COVID-19 test to make sure it is ‘just a cold.’

And he says, the most difficult during Christmas break will be limiting the number of social contacts you have. But he says it is also the most important thing to do to stop the spread of COVID-19, Ranade says almost all of the cases Lambton Public Health investigates are from close social contact – people letting their guards down with others they know.

He’s urging employers to turn in-person holiday gatherings into virtual events. “Those are the places where people let their guards down and they think, ‘Oh, I’m with these people all the time so obviously, they’re not going to be a risk.’ But in a structured environment, where you’re kept away from each other by protocols, that’s a different story than in an unstructured environment where you get together with people that seemed to be safer, because you see them all the time.”

Ranade says people in Lambton have to treat COVID-19 as if it is “all around you.

“That doesn’t mean you have to be afraid of everyone, but it means you need to keep your distance from them. And also make sure that if you feel that well, you keep your distance from everyone else and get a test.”

And Ranade is urging people to stay home this Christmas season.

“And (we need to) also restrict what we do to only that which is essential and that is a very challenging message.

“I understand this is exactly the time of year (we do socialize), we’ve had almost a full year of this pandemic. It is really challenging to say we need to continue to not be with other people, but that’s exactly what we need to do in order to protect two groups of people; one, the people who could get really, really sick or die if they get COVID-19, and two the structures in our health care system, which allow us to treat people both with and without COVID-19 when they need help.

“I think that this is a warning sign and a message to everyone that the cases are going up. There is disease in the community here, as we knew that there was. Please do not look at the numbers and say we’re better than someone else, please look at the numbers and say, ‘it’s here, we need to treat it like it’s here.’ And we need to stop doing non-essential things in order to protect the vulnerable and our healthcare system.”

Lambton has so far seen fewer cases during the second wave than many communities.

In Ontario Wednesday, 2,432 people tested positive for COVID-19 – a new one-day high in a week of record breaking cases.

Windsor-Essex is in lock down until January. For the last three days, there have been more than 100 new cases a day and two nursing homes have large outbreaks of COVID-19.

Middlesex-London is also in the red zone of the province’s reopening framework as the number of cases surge. Nearly 200 cases of COVID-19 have occurred in staff and patients at the local hospitals in December.

Ranade says if the upward trend continues, Lambton will also face new restrictions adding that the provincial framework restrictions may not be strong enough.

“Perhaps the threshold indicators are not are not set at the right level, or the interventions within each threshold are not sufficient to stop transmission of disease to the next level,” says Ranade.

“In order to prevent yourselves from moving forward, you almost have to act as if you have restrictions upon you that you don’t have, which is a challenge. I’m not gonna say it isn’t. But that’s really what we have to do now, right is as cases start to ramp up.”