Fear that Friday the 13th rally could be super-spreader events

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Health officials in Norfolk are using moral persuasion to deter motorcycle enthusiasts who may be tempted to make the pilgrimage to Port Dover for November’s Friday the 13th rally in Port Dover.

Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, Norfolk and Haldimand’s medical officer of health, said the Ontario government’s attitude to unstructured crowd-settings like this was abundantly clear when authorities recently moved to break up well-attended car shows in Ancaster and Grand Bend.

The fear involves super-spreader events sending dozens of individuals back to their home communities infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“Unstructured gatherings are particularly worrisome,” Nesathurai said during a conference call. “I would discourage and have discouraged people from congregating at events like Friday the 13th. I would respectfully ask people to stay home within their family group.”

Friday the 13th motorcycle rallies cater to an older demographic, many of whom are parents. The doctor said the November rally provides this demographic with an opportunity to model responsible behaviour for their children. They can do this best, he said, by staying away.

The fear with events like Friday the 13th, Nesathurai said, is someone coming to Norfolk or Haldimand from a coronavirus hotspot, infecting a large number of people, and leaving it to the local health unit to respond.

A report coming to the Norfolk and Haldimand Board of Health on Oct. 6 warns that the local health unit is overworked without having to cope with the aftermath of a super-spreader event. The same report recommends that Norfolk County council – as the board of health for both counties – petition the Ministry of Health for funding for a dedicated 30-member COVID-19 rapid-response team serving the local area.

Nesathurai warned there is potential to overwhelm the resources of the three hospitals in the local health district which – together – have fewer than a dozen intensive-care beds. He said contagious individuals can spread the virus for up to 48 hours before they themselves present with symptoms.

Health officials in Toronto say they’ve lost the ability to conduct thorough contact tracing due to the spike in numbers. Nesathurai believes Norfolk and Haldimand have not reached the saturation point and that contact tracing for nascent outbreaks remains a worthwhile objective.

Nesathurai asked local residents to think carefully about visiting coronavirus hot-spots now that the second wave is underway. The contagion, he said, can easily be brought back to Haldimand and Norfolk and spread among the local population.

“I am concerned about an increasing number of cases in Haldimand and Norfolk,” he said. “It’s clearly a concern of ours.”