Health unit reports 25 'probable" cases of coronavirus in Brantford-Brant

Dr. Elizabeth Urbantke, acting medical officer of health at the Brant County Health Unit announced late Monday afternoon that 25 probable cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Brantford and Brant County. Lab results are still pending from those individuals tested. All cases are travel related, and none are yet confirmed. Brian Thompson / Brian Thompson/The Expositor

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The Brant County Health Unit is reporting 25 “probable” cases of the coronavirus in Brantford and Brant County.

“These cases are being considered probable without lab testing confirmation, per the health ministry’s new directives,” Dr. Elizabeth Bertanke, Brant County’s Medical Officer of Health said Monday. “Lab testing has been ordered for these cases and the results are still pending.

“We’re treating them as if they are confirmed cases until the test results tell us otherwise.”

All 25 cases are travel-related and the individuals came from a variety of countries. All are self-isolating, Urbantke said.

At this time there are still no lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brantford, Brant County, she said.

Urbantke said the existence of probable cases wasn’t unexpected given the new directives issued by Ontario’s health ministry.

The new definition covers those who have a fever over 39C and/or with new or exacerbation of a chronic cough and any of the following circumstances within 14 days prior to the onset of illness:

  • Have travelled to an impacted area or been in close contact with a confirmed or probable case.
  • Been in close contact with a person who has acute respiratory illness and has travelled to an impacted area.

These people are recommended to self-isolate until 24 hours after they are no longer showing symptoms.

“Staying at home until you feel well is still the best course of action people can take to avoid spreading COVID-19,” Urbantke said.

The health ministry has developed a self-assessment tool https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-self-assessment to help determine if residents should seek further care and all probable cases should be reported to the health unit by phone or by e-mail to enable staff to conduct contact tracing and keep an accurate picture of the virus in the community.

To report a probable case call 519-753-4937 and press 1 or send a message to covid19@bchu.org

Urbantke also urged residents to take steps to limit the number of people they come in contact with to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The health unit COVID-19 call centre continues to experience high call volumes. More staff have been added and the hotline’s hours of operation have been increased, Urbantke said.

Most questions can be answered by visiting the health unit’s website at https://www.bchu.org/ServicesWeProvide/InfectiousDiseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx

Meanwhile, Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis said Monday that finding a way to help feed homeless people is a top priority for city officials.

“A lot of the meal programs are operated in church halls by volunteers many of whom are 65 years of age and older,” Davis said. “People in that age group are among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus and as a result many of the meal programs have been suspended.

“We’re aware of the problem and we’ve asked staff to come to us with some solutions.”

Davis said he expects to have some options soon.

The city is also looking for ways to keep healthy the people who are now living in the community’s three homeless shelters.

“We’re looking for ways we can self-isolate those who may have symptoms,” Davis said. “As I’ve said before our top priority is the health of our citizens and we’re doing everything we can to protect them.”

City officials have been meeting daily to address issues raised by the coronavirus and Davis said he was pleased to have representatives from Six Nations and the County of Brant joining the discussion.

“We have to work together on this because together we are stronger,” Davis said.

He was also pleased with most of what he heard from Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during their news conferences on Monday.

Both recognize that impact the coronavirus will have on people and businesses and are stepping up to make sure resources and supports are in place.

Later in the day, Davis was waiting and hoping for directive from the province that would require restaurants and bars to temporarily close.

“My personal position is that’s the direction we need to take,” Davis said. “We know the storm is coming and so much of what we’re doing right now is battening down the hatches. We’re closing facilities to keep down crowds and practice social distancing.

“To me, it only makes sense to have the bars and restaurants closed now because once the storm hits, it’s too late to batten down the hatches.”

Davis also called on people to look out for each other but especially those who are most vulnerable – those who are 65 years or older and those with underlying health issues.

“Maybe it’s a matter of walking their dog for them, or picking up some groceries or just calling to make sure they’re OK,” Davis said. “If we all work together, we can get through this.”

City officials are looking for way to harness the sense of volunteerism to help the community weather the coronavirus storm, he added.

Davis said there is no need for people to panic and purchase more groceries than needed.

“I would encourage people to remain calm,” Davis said. “Our food supply is second to none and provincial and federal officials have offered their assurances that it remains strong.”

Vball@postmedia.com

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