UPDATED: COVID-19 stats may not accurately reflect levels of infection

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The Chatham-Kent Pubic Health Unit is reporting more than 100 COVID-19 swab tests have been done so far this month.

A total of 121 tests have been done since March 3 and 51 are pending, according to the health unit update that was posted on its web page at 9 a.m. Thursday. The 51 are people at home on self isolation and waiting for test results. In Ontario, nearly 36,000 people have been tested and almost 10,500 results are pending.

Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, said testing criteria have changed multiple times and there is a province-wide shortage of testing capacity.

“No asymptomatic people are being tested,” he said. “This is not optimal from an epidemiologic point of view.”

Colby admits shortages are being addressed.

He said the health unit helps with screening of people who call, but ultimately testing or not is up to the caregiver (family doctor), who is to follow provincial guidelines. CK Public Health said it is continuously monitoring the situation and proactively working with local, provincial, and federal partners to manage and respond to COVID-19.

Health officials want the public to use the Ministry of Health’s self-assessment tool to help determine if they need to seek care. They advise against visiting the COVID assessment centre at 47 Emma St. in Chatham unless you are referred by a health care professional. The health unit also recommended calling your health care provider before visiting the assessment centre and calling 911 if you feel you are not getting enough air or experiencing other severe symptoms.

Chatham-Kent still has two confirmed cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths. The surrounding public health units are reporting five positive cases in Lambton, five in Windsor-Essex, and 23 in Middlesex-London with no COVID deaths in those areas. Ontario is reporting 837 positive cases and 13 deaths.

CK Public Health said people without symptoms (fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath) and mild cases are not being tested right now and under these circumstances, lab-confirmed cases “may not accurately reflect levels of infection.” Dr. Colby has admitted that people could be carrying the virus without knowing but insists the risk is still low.

Meanwhile, a person who works in Chatham-Kent was reported to be positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday but CK Public Health said the employee is not a resident of Chatham-Kent and was not included in the latest local numbers.

The health unit said the unidentified workplace notified staff immediately and closed the building.

“In Ontario, confirmed positive test results are sent to the local health unit where the individual lives,” wrote Caress Lee Carpenter, Community Outreach and Public Relations Officer with CK Public Health in a news release issued Thursday afternoon.

She added privacy policies and the fact the individual is from outside Chatham-Kent prevents the local health unit from releasing any details about the infected person, such as age and gender.

The local medical officer of health said any time a Chatham-Kent resident tests positive for COVID-19, that information is shared with the public by CK Public Health.

“When we are notified about a positive test result, we immediately begin the contact tracing process for that case, making sure that anyone in Chatham-Kent who has come into close contact with the individual is notified and directed to self-isolate for 14 days,” said Dr. Colby. “Once contact tracing begins, we begin the process of informing the community.”