Huron-Perth COVID-19 cases surge due to Stratford outbreak
BY DENNY SCOTT
With a 32 per cent increase in cases (since the pandemic began) in just over a week, COVID-19 is still very active in Huron and Perth Counties according to Huron-Perth Medical Officer of Health Dr. Miriam Klassen.
As of Monday, there have been 203 cases of the virus in the region since the pandemic began. This is an increase of 49 confirmed cases in one week, 48 of which remain active. This surge represents not only the biggest single week increase in the area since the pandemic began, but it is also the highest number of active cases the two counties have ever had at one time.
Many of those cases are tied to Cedarcroft Place in Stratford, which is in the midst of an active outbreak. With 34 residents and 12 staff having confirmed cases, a total of 46 cases have been discovered at the retirement home in the past weeks. There have also been three deaths at the site, bringing the total deaths related to COVID-19 in Huron and Perth Counties to eight since the pandemic started earlier this year.
Klassen did say, during a teleconference on Monday, that most of the cases in the retirement home are mild or asymptomatic. She said that could change rapidly given the home’s older population, many of whom have underlying health conditions.
Klassen reported that the site is working with Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH), Ontario Health and the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance to help control the outbreak.
“We continue to look for why the spread does continue,” she said. “We have not determined how COVID-19 was introduced into the facility in the first place.”
Klassen said that, unlike earlier outbreaks of the pandemic, there is sufficient personal protective equipment at the site to prevent infection and control the outbreak.
During a teleconference on Monday, Klassen also reported outbreaks at Knollcrest Lodge in Perth East, where one staff member tested positive for COVID-19, but was asymptomatic. A similar situation arose recently at the Mitchell Nursing Home in West Perth, however the single staff member’s test result couldn’t be repeated, leading Klassen to say it was either a false positive or an inactive infection. Despite that, the site is still operating as if there were an outbreak, including prevalence testing, Klassen said.
There were so many new cases discovered over the weekend, Klassen said, that the HPPH wasn’t able to provide confirmed numbers until late Monday afternoon, which is later than usual, due to the amount of contact tracing being undertaken due to the spike.
One case was also discovered in connection with Milverton Public School, Klassen said, though outbreak protocols haven’t been deemed necessary at the site.
While there have been a number of cases at Cedarcroft Place, Klassen said there are several community infections in Stratford and Perth East, and she and HPPH are concerned with the amount of transmission in the community.
“Everyone needs to remain vigilant about public health measures,” she said. “We’re estimating seven [of the active] cases are outside the outbreak.”
Last week, during a Thursday teleconference, Klassen said high-risk contacts are becoming more prevalent through the HPPH’s contact tracing.
“Our investigation is revealing and identifying high-risk contacts,” she said, explaining those contacts involve face-to-face contact within two-metre range for 15 minutes or more, as well as other situations where the virus could be easily transmitted.
Klassen said she wants to underscore the risk involved with the virus, even in Huron and Perth Counties, which are seemingly removed from hotspots like larger city centres.
“That’s not the way to think about it,” she said. “We have to continue to be diligent and follow rules for schools and businesses to stay open. We can see how quickly numbers can explode once it starts.”
Klassen said that, when it comes to contact tracing, there should only be high-risk contact with household members.
“People should not be getting together with friends or exceeding limits,” she said. “If we’re asking for contacts, you should only be naming household contacts.”
She went on to say it’s concerning when contact tracing reveals that they’ve been in a car with someone who isn’t in their household or taking similar risks. “We shouldn’t be doing that right now,” she said.
As far as specific cases, only one of the 49 new cases in the past week is in Huron County with Huron East climbing from three confirmed cases to four. Central Huron has had 14 confirmed cases throughout the pandemic while Bluewater has had 13. South Huron has had 10 confirmed cases while Goderich has had four. Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh has had three cases while Morris-Turnberry and North Huron have each had one confirmed case. Howick continues to have had no confirmed cases.
Since last Monday, Stratford has increased to 91 confirmed cases from 47 and Perth East, which has four new confirmed cases, now has the second-most cases in Perth County with 21. North Perth remains at 19 confirmed cases, Perth South remains at eight and West Perth and St. Marys each remain at seven confirmed cases.
For more information, visit hpph.ca