Health unit gets serious with COVID-19 law breakers

Dr. David Colby, CK Medical Officer of Health. (Photo courtesy of the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit)

Those who have COVID-19 or those with symptoms who knowingly go out in public have been put on notice by Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health.

Dr. David Colby issued an order under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act on Friday that allows CK Public Health to fine those who violate the order.

Individuals who don’t stay home and potentially spread the virus could be fined up to $5,000 for every day they continue to commit the offence. Corporations could face a maximum fine of $25,000.

Colby said the order applies to all local residents and those who visit Chatham-Kent.  Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, has symptoms compatible with COVID-19, is waiting for COVID-19 test results, and/or has been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, are expected to follow the new order.

“These individuals must ensure they abide by the actions listed in the order to protect the community of Chatham-Kent from the spread of COVID-19,” Colby said in a statement issued late Friday afternoon.

The medical official added that contagious people must comply in good faith with community screening at workplaces, businesses, schools, child care facilities or other organizations. They must also isolate immediately if directed by CK Public Health, remain in isolation from the community if they’re positive for COVID-19 until further direction is provided, keep away from vulnerable persons (if in isolation, experiencing symptoms, waiting for test results or is a contact of a confirmed case) such as those with underlying medical conditions, a compromised immune system, people over 60 years of age, and those living in a group living setting.

Names of close contacts and phone numbers for contact tracing must also be provided. They must seek medical attention if their illness gets worse, must inform CK Public Health if assistance with resources is needed during the isolation period, and follow all instructions given by CK Public Health.

In the meantime, CK Public Health reported three new cases of COVID-19 and that one person has recovered on Friday.

As of Friday afternoon, Chatham-Kent had a total of 16 active cases. Five of the cases were exposed through a community outbreak at a Blenheim church, five are a close contact of a case, one was exposed at a workplace outside of Chatham-Kent and it’s unknown how two others were exposed. Results are also pending for three more cases.

Colby said there is a link between the church community outbreak and the cases at local schools, and that he’s “considering several options” regarding further restrictions for places of worship.

Dozens of students and staff members were dismissed from Tecumseh Public School in Chatham, St. Anne Elementary School in Blenheim and Ursuline College Chatham earlier this week after four students or staff members tested positive for COVID-19.