Colby concerned about beaches and regional openings

Dr. David Colby, CK Medical Officer of Health. Oct 18, 2017. (Photo by Paul Pedro)

The medical officer of health in Chatham-Kent is keeping a close eye on a couple of contentious health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic but is optimistic about a possible vaccine in the fall that could get us closer to normal.

Dr. David Colby told reporters during a weekly teleconference on Thursday that, while local beaches remain “technically” closed to large groups, they are not off limits to individuals wanting to take a leisurely stroll along the water. Colby said it’s a tough issue to manage because beaches have a “mish-mash” of varying rules and regulations under different municipal, provincial, and federal jurisdictions.

“It’s the same as green spaces. Nobody is saying you can’t walk along the beach and enjoy the shore but we can’t have a situation where hordes of people show up at the beach and are shoulder to shoulder enjoying the nice weather and violating physical distancing,” he said.

He said beaches remain closed under provincial emergency orders and he doesn’t see them opening in the near future. Dr. Colby also feels confident in saying there won’t be any team sports this summer.

The possibility of a regional opening in southwestern Ontario also came up during the media briefing. The province is considering regional openings but Dr. Colby is very concerned about it. Colby added he believes Premier Doug Ford has overtime “softened” his stance against regional openings and he is concerned about people in COVID-19 hot spots like Windsor coming to the Chatham area.

“If we opened up services in Chatham-Kent and saw a migration from Windsor-Essex where they have community spread going on there than I would be very worried about that,” Colby said. “I’m very concerned that people are getting cabin fever or pandemic fatigue and trying to pretend that we don’t have the potential for a big problem, because we still do.”

Colby thinks regional openings will work in isolated communities in northern Ontario but not here.

Colby is also very excited about a possible vaccine to treat the virus being ready for distribution in October. He said two vaccines seem to be moving faster than the others but Pfizer seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to developing a vaccine. Colby said the two front runners are already testing their vaccines on humans.

“I’m very, very excited by this whole concept and simply can’t wait,” he said.

Dr. Colby reiterated there will be no new normal until a vaccine that works is widely available. Colby said vaccines are now designed in six weeks compared to three years in the past.

On Thursday, CK Public Health reported another new COVID-19 case at Greenhill Produce to bring its total to 103 cases. Three of them remain active at the greenhouse operation while the others have recovered. Colby said the entire farm workforce has been tested twice and public health officials continue testing and managing the outbreak.

Three other cases in the community remain active for a total of six if the Greenhill Produce cases are included. Chatham-Kent has a total of 147 cases, one person still in the hospital, and one person deceased because of COVID-19.