Five confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lambton

Lambton Public Health (Photo courtesy of Lambton Public Health)

Lambton Public Health and Bluewater Health have confirmed the first cases of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) in Sarnia-Lambton.

In a joint media release at noon Wednesday, the health unit and hospital reported that the five affected individuals are currently in hospital and are all persons over the age of 60.

“Each person presented at Bluewater Health’s emergency department, where they were safely screened and tested for the illness,” the statement said. “The patients are isolated in the hospital safely and all hospital infection control protocols were followed and well managed by the healthcare team. Bluewater Health’s infection prevention and control protocols are in place at all times and are currently heightened with screening points for all patients, visitors, staff and physicians. Individuals are reminded to please continue to monitor their own health, practice proper hand hygiene often, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth and to practice social distancing.”

Lambton County Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sudit Ranade said in a follow-up media teleconference that there’s a range of severity of symptoms in the five patients.

“My understanding is that some of them might be very severe in the ICU but others of them are on normal floors,” said Ranade. “That range is also consistent with what we know about this illness, you would expect to see that.”

He said they’re now investigating each case.

“The public health side of it is really going to be about identifying the potential exposure from those cases to the rest of the community. What I mean by that is that we now will engage in an understanding of when each of their symptoms started, where were they during the course of their symptomatic or incubation period, had they had any travel, where were the other places that they had been to try and get a handle on other people who might have been exposed.”

Dr. Ranade said from there they move into contact tracing and management, identifying people who might have been in close contact with the cases and advising them to follow procedures related to isolation or monitoring depending on the level of contact.

With the news of the first positive cases, he expressed hope that everyone in Sarnia-Lambton will now take the pandemic seriously.

“I’m actually hoping that the fact that we can prove it now will be a bit of a kick-in-the-pants for people who haven’t been doing the things that they’re supposed to do or haven’t been taking it seriously. But having said that, we’re treating this just as confirmation of something that we were fairly certain was going on anyways, so I’m happy that a lot of preparations had already started.”

Dr. Ranade conceded that testing has been an issue.

“We definitely don’t have enough tests and also the lab is working on building its capacity to process tests. The combination of those two things have led to both a delay in our ability to conduct the tests and our ability to get the results of the tests.”

Bluewater Health would not comment more specifically on the conditions of those hospitalized as a result of the virus, citing privacy issues. Communications Chief Julia Oosterman did say the five are residents of both Sarnia and Lambton County, and that the hospital is establishing a COVID-19 unit.

-With files from Colin Gowdy
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What you need to know and do

To reduce the community spread of COVID-19:
• Limit the number of people you come into close contact with
• Avoid crowds and change the time that you go if you find a store to be very crowded.
• Discuss work from home or modified shift arrangements with your employer.
• Avoid non-essential trips and interactions in the community.
• Frequently practice good personal hygiene – wash your hands, cover your cough and sneeze, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you have just cleaned your hands. Disinfect surfaces you frequently touch.
• Stay home if you are sick.

For those who are concerned that they may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, considerations
include:
• If you develop mild symptoms such as a fever or cough, move to self-isolation at home and rest.
• If your symptoms become more severe and you need to seek medical attention call your healthcare provider for assessment, or call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.
• For extremely severe symptoms call 911 or visit the Emergency Department.
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The guidance for COVID-19 testing no longer considers country of travel; instead it focuses on prioritization of those at highest risk.

COVID-19 testing is only available under limited circumstances, due to the limited supply of tests. Therefore, COVID-19 testing is no longer appropriate for the general population, and testing will be prioritized based on critical illness and business continuity needs for essential service providers.

An initial COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool has been posted to the Ministry of Health website. Individuals who suspect they have COVID-19 can consult this tool to determine whether and how to seek further care.

LambtonPublicHealth.ca provides local access to information about COVID-19 including the current situation and resources to support the community.