By John Swartz
This week the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) began daily updates for media. The main feature of the order of business so far is to update the numbers.
Tuesday, Dr. Charles Gardner stated the number of confirmed cases increased by 2 to 12, and as the press conference began two more were added to the list.
We have a case at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, a woman in her 70s who acquired COVID-19 from the community.
“She has no travel history and no history of contact with such a case,” Said Dr. Gardner
“For me a really important take away message is we are definitely seeing the onset of community acquired cases,” he said, “and we had a significant number of cases that are severe cases that required hospitalization.”
“I am troubled by the community acquired cases. Cases that cannot be linked to travel or another known case linked to travel.”
The other case is a 52-year-old man from Adjala–Tosorontio Township who is now in South Lake Hospital in Newmarket. His infection is related to travelling.
On Wednesday new numbers lead the media update. There are now 21 cases in the county, 6 are hospitalized and two have died. As Dr. Gardner began the update, one more case had just been received by the SMDHU of a person in Muskoka being added. Eleven cases are attributed to travel. The first case was recorded March 5.
“The cases that you see today had their exposures at least two weeks ago, probably more, so it’s more of an indication of what had been happening in the past. What we do right now is going to bear fruit in terms of reduced cases going out forward in time beyond the next two weeks. You’ve got to put in the effort right now to make that benefit down the road,” Gardner said Wednesday.
Public Notification Change.
As the conference call began on Tuesday the SMDHU website changed the indication of municipal residency of each case to a generic Simcoe County designation. On Wednesday a question was asked why media was not being provided with that information any longer.
“We have found that when you get very specific about where they live the focus becomes about that case and people have the sense if they can just know what person to avoid they are otherwise fine. I think that’s a dangerous view to take because what you see with cases is the tip of the iceberg. In fact you’ve got community transmission and people actually don’t know who is a case and who isn’t, therefore you need to be aware of that,” said Dr. Gardner. He continued saying he wanted to de-emphasize local and specific references.
While SUNonline/Orillia understands the position, and the doctor’s goal of people being responsible for their own protection, we believe this is not the best way to proceed. Rumour alone will defeat the notion, and is more likely to include false information as it passes through the community.
Gardner’s intent to keep everyone on their toes is good, but as we appointed out in writing people in smaller communities may become complacent as they find their community’s name absent from reports and assume it’s a city thing.
We also pointed out should a big spike occur, remembering there is one Orillia hospitalization now, a sense of panic could be the result if a new number in Orillia should be found out to be, for example, in double digits.
We also pointed out information eventually is always revealed or found out, to the good and too the bad, and maybe it’s better to be forthcoming now.
On Tuesday SUNonline/Orillia asked specifically about comparisons of numbers from the provincial website where under investigation cases were 18 times the number of confirmed cases. The SMDHU does not report the under investigation statistic and we wanted to know if the case is similar here.
“We don’t know how many tests have been ordered. We don’t get that information, They are done by a local physician, but I have every reason to believe we could be in that range. I do know there is a significant amount of tests being done.”
This would mean as of Wednesday approximately 380 under investigation cases could exist in the county.
“My main concern is not how many more tests are pending, but how many more potential cases there are out in the community that have not been able to be assessed,” he said.
SUNonline/Orillia also asked if he agreed with a Lancet article we reported on which warned not to take Ibuprofen and instead use Acetaminophen and what should people be doing to treat symptoms if they are not hospitalized. The latter is a question we and others have been asking without answer.
“At this time I am not aware of any specific treatment that may or may not make a difference. I think taking Acetaminophen would reduce aches and pains and fever, but wouldn’t change the course or the outcome of the infection,” said Dr. Gardner. He did not say what other measures people could take in their own homes.
Dr. Gardner referred countless times to the need for people to heed the directions of doctors and those contained in both provincial and Orillia’s emergency declarations to keep distance between ourselves and others. He wants to retire the term social distancing.
“We’ve called is social distancing to date. I think we’re going to shift over to call it physical distancing because we are becoming aware of the negative impact on people’s well-being if they can’t maintain social contact in some way with other people,”
This is a smart move, it’s accurate and because it may also just get through to those who are ignoring the directives.
The province has provided the ability for the OPP to issue tickets (minimum $750) for contravening the emergency directives, but to date SUNonline/Orillia is not aware it has been used.
SUNonline/Orillia will continue to monitor SMDHU media conferences and will aggregate and at times provide analysis of information periodically rather than be one more outlet inundating readers with statistics.
(Photo/Graphic by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)