Norfolk County is paying it forward during the pandemic.
The county, which received a huge boost from the Brant County Health Unit earlier in the pandemic, has entered into a formal agreement to help the Windsor-Essex Health Unit battle COVID-19. Councillors voted in favour of the mutual aid agreement with Windsor-Essex Health Unit at a special meeting of county council on Friday.
“The assistance will be provided by phone and instead of following cases in our jurisdictions, we would be following cases in other jurisdictions,” Marlene Miranda, the county’s manager of health and social services, told councillors.
“Our nurses have the skills and training and are capable of doing this work.”
Miranda reminded councillors of the boost the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit received from Brant when 160 migrant workers needed to be put in quarantine because of a COVID-19 outbreak in Norfolk.
The H-N health unit wouldn’t have been able to handle the outbreak without the assistance of Brant, Miranda said.
The Brant health unit provided several public health nurses within hours of being contacted by their public health colleagues in Haldimand-Norfolk, Miranda added.
Locally, Haldimand-Norfolk has about six active cases and that relatively-low number enables it to provide assistance to Windsor-Essex which is currently experiencing several clusters of cases, Miranda said.
Haldimand-Norfolk has had 451 positive cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began and of those 395 have recovered. There have been 32 deaths with most of those occurring in a long-term care home in Haldimand.
“I love the idea of communities working collaboratively and I think this is how it should be done,” Coun. Kim Huffman (Ward 7) said.
However, Huffman wondered if the health unit had the capacity to be able to provide assistance given the stress and long hours the local public health staff have been working since the start of the pandemic.
Miranda acknowledged that public health staff have been working full-tilt since the start of the pandemic but said the situation has eased enough to allow staff to take vacation and work five days a week instead of seven.
In addition, the local COVID-19 count is down to about six giving staff time to lend assistance to Windsor-Essex.
Miranda noted that the vacation time being taken by public health staff is well-deserved and needed because there is always the possibility of a second wave.
Earlier during Friday’s meeting Norfolk CAO Jason Burgess told councillors the mutual aid agreement with Windsor-Essex is similar to those that exist between municipalities to cover emergency services such as police, fire and paramedics.