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COVID-19 measures to be ‘new normal’

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Local health experts are advising continued public health practices until COVID-19 treatments and vaccinations are widely available.

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As Ontario continues to loosen restrictions and re-open the economy, officials at Southwestern Public Health caution that COVID-19 will be an indefinite threat.

The World Health Organization issued a warning on May 13 that novel-coronavirus will likely become embedded in populations, just as other infectious diseases and viruses have. Based on global epidemiology models and known attributes of coronaviruses, it is probable the COVID-19 virus will continue to spread.

Southwestern Public Health, which covers the Oxford-Elgin region, expects public health practices – physical distancing, wearing a cloth mask, staying home when sick, and frequently washing hands – will be critical to controlling the spread of the virus until medical treatments or vaccines are widely available.

“The possibility of spreading or catching COVID-19 will be here for a while,” said Dr. Joyce Lock, Medical Officer of Health at Southwestern Public Health in a media release. “Until we develop a vaccine or have significant levels of immunity, these measures will be our new normal.”

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, initial provincial modelling, scaled to local population size, projected the Southwestern Public Health region could see up to 2,000 daily cases at the peak of the outbreak.

As of May 26, however, there have been 73 total cases, and 4 deaths in the region. Health experts attribute public health interventions, such as physical distancing, as a contributing factor to the reduced number of positive COVID-19 cases.

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Southwestern Public Health epidemiologists are reviewing international, national and provincial research to determine the impact of public health measures. A recent provincial epidemiology model predicts a spike in deaths from COVID-19 – up to a total of 1,500 deaths in Ontario by late June – if all physical distancing measures are eliminated in May.

“Other countries saw a surge in cases when they started relaxing public health measures. If we do it too quickly here, we could see the same,” said Dr. Lock. “We need to behave as if COVID-19 is all around us to reduce pressure on the health care system and avoid having to tighten restrictions once again.”

Southwestern Public Health continues to monitor the COVID-19 spread globally, provincially and in neighbouring regions to be able to identify a potential second wave. Visit www.swpublichealth.ca/covid-19 for updated information for the Oxford and Elgin County regions.

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Two cases of COVID-19 in Tillsonburg as of Tuesday, May 26

There are 11 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in the Oxford-Elgin region, 10 of them in Oxford County. Ongoing cases are in Ingersoll (4), Tillsonburg (2), Woodstock (2), East Zorra-Tavistock, Malahide and one new case in St. Thomas.

Four people in Elgin County died from the coronavirus. There have been no reported Covid-19 deaths in Oxford County.

A total of 4,171 people have been tested in Oxford-Elgin, including 241 pending test results.

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In total, since the first positive tests March 23 (Elgin) and March 25 (Oxford) were recorded by Southwestern Public Health, there have been 73 cumulative cases in Oxford-Elgin, which includes 58 that are resolved (no longer infectious).

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit reported 216 lab-confirmed cumulative cases, including 92 active cases. As of Tuesday, 93 have recovered and there have been 31 deaths in the H-N region.

In total, Middlesex-London has had 505 cases of coronavirus. 367 have been resolved, and there have been 51 deaths.

Ontario has tested 629,414 people for COVID-19 so far, of which 596,262 were negative. As of Tuesday there are 4,110 active ongoing cases in the province (96 new cases since yesterday). In Ontario there have been 2,123 COVID-19 deaths (21 deaths since Monday’s report).

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