EOHU plans for COVID-19 testing and assessment sites

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By Nick Seebruch
EOHU plans for COVID-19 testing and assessment sites
Dr. Paul Roumeliotis updating the media on the COVID-19 situation on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

CORNWALL, Ontario – In an update for the media in Cornwall, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) stated that should it become necessary, testing and assessment sites for COVID-19 (novel Coronavirus) will be setup in the region.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Chief Medical Officer of Health with the EOHU explained that while no one in the region had yet to test positive for COVID-19, the virus arriving in the area was inevitable, and he sought to inform the public on the best ways to be prepared.

“While I wouldn’t be surprised if someone imports it, our goal is to collectively decrease the spread of the virus in the community,” Roumeliotis said.

Dr. Roumeliotis explained that 85 to 90 per cent of individuals who contract COVID-19 will be fine, but that his concern was for the remaining people who might be stricken more severely.

“Despite the fact that 85 per cent of people won’t get seriously sick, we want to do what we can to protect the 15 per cent and keep that number down,” he said.

On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic, with 120,000 individuals infected across more than 100 countries.

“Just because they called it a pandemic, does not mean we are there locally,” Dr. Roumeliotis said. “Pandemic does not speak to severity. It speaks to breadth of spread. It depends on numbers of cases and the burden on the healthcare system.”

With the goal of preventing an overload of the local healthcare system, Dr. Roumeliotis explained that steps, such as the creation of testing and assessment sites that are away from hospitals, are being planned for.

Dr. Roumeliotis said that should a high number of cases of COVID-19 appear at schools, then he may recommend that those schools be closed, and if there is widespread infection within the community, he might recommend that all schools be closed for a period of time.

Additionally, he stated that the same could be true for workplaces and that employers should be prepared for absences, such as with the creation of remote work opportunities.

He also said that the spread of COVID-19 could lead to the cancellation or postponement of local events, or warnings that the elderly or those with underlying medical issues avoid such events.

Dr. Roumeliotis said that the Cornwall region was not at this stage yet, and that the triggering of these precautions designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will depend on rate of infection locally, and how burdened the healthcare system becomes.

“It all depends on how this thing rolls out,” he said, explaining that it was unclear if there would be a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall, as there was with the 1918 pandemic. “We are learning as we go.”

Dr. Roumeliotis also counseled that stockpiling supplies like toilet paper was unnecessary and that individuals should instead focus on ensuring they have two weeks of food in case they have to self-isolate and have any medications they need on hand.

As of right now, Dr. Roumeliotis stated that there was no shortage of personal protective equipment, such as N95 masks, but that shortages could be possible if there is an outbreak in the region, which causes a run on supplies. Additionally, Dr. Roumeliotis reminded the room that the N95 masks were only effective for a couple of hours, had to be properly fitted, and were of no use to those who were healthy, other than medical professionals.

The EOHU stated that they plan to work closely with local media partners as the situation with COVID-19 develops.

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