It doesn’t change much, but Norfolk and Haldimand learned on Nov. 6 that they are in the province’s “yellow” zone in terms of COVID-19 activity.
According to the Ontario government’s new classification system for the pandemic threat, the good word in the local health district is “protect,” which is to say “protect” one’s self from viral exposure while “protecting” the most vulnerable such as the frail elderly.
“Our community must remain vigilant when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19,” said Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp, chair of the Haldimand-Norfolk Board of Health, in a statement after the province’s announcement.
“We have outbreaks at a hospital, a long-term care facility, farm, a school and among the members of a men’s hockey team. It’s disappointing to note that a number of them are linked to Thanksgiving-related travel and gatherings.
“I know fatigue is starting to set in. But it’s imperative that we all continue to follow the advice of our public health professionals.”
Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt said the counties’ designation – unveiled last Friday along with other health district designations at a press conference in Ottawa —won’t have an immediate impact in his half of the health district.
Yet Hewitt and others will be watching the COVID-19 case count closely in the days ahead to see where the trend is headed.
“This is a warning sign that things are not going the right way and that people need to be diligent,” Hewitt said of the Code Yellow designation.
Hewitt said he hopes medical officials are surgical in their analysis going forward. He noted that social distancing comes naturally to a health district like Haldimand-Norfolk, which has a population of only 110,000 in a geographic area the size of the GTA.
“Because we’re such a small population, there’s one outbreak and our percentages get skewed,” Hewitt said. “It’s a situation that doesn’t really reflect our reality.”
Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, Norfolk and Haldimand’s Medical Officer of Health, spoke briefly about the new grading system at the Nov. 3 meeting of the Norfolk and Haldimand board of health.
With the colour-coded system, Nesathurai said, comes a more “granular” analysis that could push the local area into the “orange” (where the code word is “restrict”) or down into the “green” zone where the code word is “prevent.”
Depending on the trend line, medical officers such as Nesathurai are empowered to issue specific orders to arrest transmission rates if necessary.
This analysis includes the daily case count in Haldimand and Norfolk as well as the 14-day and 30-day rolling case average. Nesathurai noted there is elevated COVID-19 activity in the local area now that the expected “second wave” has arrived, with Haldimand and Norfolk registering about three new confirmed cases a day for the past two weeks.
This compares with this summer when it was not unusual to report no new daily cases.
At the Nov. 3 meeting, Nesathurai spoke of recent outbreaks and the fact that 240 people were in quarantine due to symptoms or because of exposure to confirmed cases.