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COVID-19 'exposure is possible anywhere in any community', warns medical officer of health

There are now 10 positive cases in the region

With the first case of community-spread COVID-19 in the region, Porcupine Health Unit Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lianne Catton is urging people to stay home.

To date, the health unit is aware of 249 local COVID-19 tests being submitted. Of those, 10 are positive, 138 are negative, and they're waiting on the results of 101.

Across Ontario, 151 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported today. The total for the province has now tipped over 1,000 with 1,144 confirmed cases of the virus. Of those, eight are resolved and 18 people have died, although two deaths are not lab-confirmed.

Last night, four new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Cochrane, bringing the total number of cases in Cochrane to five. There are also five positive cases in Timmins.

One of yesterday's confirmed cases, a man in his 30s, is believed to be locally spread with no links to international travel or contact with another case. He went to the Lady Minto Hospital emergency room March 22 where he was assessed and tested. He is in self-isolation at home and is stable.

For the other cases reported yesterday, Catton said one is linked to international travel and the individual is at home in stable condition. The health unit does not have flight exposure concerns. The other two cases are contacts of previously announced cases. They are in isolation at home and stable.

“While we expected to have local transmission and we have asked and advised all residents to act as though we do, we now must urge all community members please stay home. This is our opportunity, the time is now. We can slow the spread, we can decrease the number of cases, we can help protect our loved ones and our community members who may be at greater risk of becoming more sick with this infection. We need to consider that exposure is possible anywhere in any community,” she said.

Catton said information on the number of cases and where they are can lead to a false sense of security if an individual wasn't in a particular location one day.

"And the important thing is we need absolutely everyone to be following the precautions that we’ve put forward because we need to assume that this is occurring and now this case does signify that we’ve had a sign of local transmission and so we need to assume that there’s more,” she said.

Locally, up until now, there has been a news release from the health unit when a local case is confirmed. That process is changing moving forward.

It is expected that the number of positive cases will increase. Catton said daily updates will continue, but news releases won't be issued for every case. If there is a change in status or a signal that something is different the health unit will would issue a more formal release.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 — fever, dry cough and/or shortness of breath — call the Porcupine Health Unit information line at 1-800-461-1818. 

It's available weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. If you leave a message, staff will get back to you within 24 hours.

The COVID-19 Assessment Centre in Timmins is located at the Intrepid Centre at the Canadian Mental Health Association's branch on Second Avenue. 

It is by appointment only, with people needing a referral from their doctor, Porcupine Health Unit or Telehealth. Find out what you need to know about how to access it here.

Maija Hoggett

About the Author: Maija Hoggett

Maija Hoggett is an experienced journalist who covers Timmins and area
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