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Sutcliffe: Data shows positive signs pandemic could be easing in the region

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to be complacent, the region’s top doc says
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Dr. Penny Sutcliffe. (File)

The region’s top doc says there are positive signs the pandemic could be easing in the area, but that is not a reason to become complacent on limiting the spread.

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, the chief medical officer of health with Public Health Sudbury & District, said the region hasn’t had a new case of COVID-19 in about a week, but it’s the epidemiological data that illustrates the most positive signs.

“By several indicators, things are improving in our area,” she said.

For one thing, the number of positive tests among the most recent round of testing showed a rate of only 0.7 per cent positive, which is low. As well, 90 per cent of cases have been resolved. Tragically, this includes the two people who died of the illness.

Sutcliffe also pointed to the prevalence of active cases, comparing the northeast rate and the provincial rate to the rate in Public Health Sudbury’s coverage area.

The provincial rate of active cases sits at 38.1 per 100,000 people. In the northeast, the rate is five per 100,000. 

In the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts, the rate of active cases stands at 2.5 per 100,000.

“So we have been relatively less affected,” she said.

To keep it that way though, people need to continue to follow recommendations on handwashing, physical distancing and mask-wearing, and continue to abide by the emergency orders to limit the number of people at social gatherings and to stay home as much as possible.

“The biggest message is don’t get complacent,” she said.

Fortunately, the health system here was not overwhelmed, Sutcliffe said. About half of the staff of Public Health Sudbury & Districts was redeployed to work on the pandemic.

When it comes to a second wave of COVID-19 striking in the fall, Sutcliffe said, “There’s no reason to think there wouldn’t be a second wave,” as that has been the case historically with pandemics of the past.

In the summer months, it’s much easier to physically distance from others. As the weather turns cold, though, and people spend more time indoors, it becomes easier for viruses to spread, which is why the cold and flu season happens during the winter months.

The measures people have been using for the past 10 weeks to protect themselves from the virus will be equally as important in the fall. Sutcliffe is particularly concerned that a second wave could hit during the next flu season, a perfect storm situation that could easily lead to the health care system becoming overwhelmed.

Sudbury.com also asked about some of the other, less well-known impacts of COVID-19 that are being reported. People tend to think the recovery from the illness is binary: either you don’t recover and you die, or you do recover and you’re fine.

However, there are reports of people being left with permanent lung damage, kidney abnormalities or injuries, heart arrhythmias and heart damage, and neurological effects that include alterations of consciousness and strokes. Strange foot rashes have been found in some children with COVID-19.

There’s also questions about what immunity means and whether people can be re-infected, as well as the percentage of people who may be asymptomatic, but contagious.

Given the virus isn’t yet a year old, there are a lot of unknowns, Sutcliffe said. 

“The virus doesn’t stop surprising us … (and) we have more questions than answers,” she said.

But, looking at the people who have recovered in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts, she said there haven’t been many severe cases of the disease.

“And for the majority, they recovered at home with no impact on their health,” she said.

If you have any of the following symptoms, you are encouraged to Health Sciences North’s COVID-19 Assessment Center between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week to be screened. You can reach the assessment centre at (705)-671-7373.

Symptoms include:

• Fever or chills
• Shortness of breath * If you are having difficulty breathing or experiencing other severe symptoms, call 911 immediately. Advise them of your symptoms and travel history.
• Sore throat
• New onset or worsening cough
• Difficulty swallowing
• Loss of taste or sense of smell
• Runny nose or nasal congestion (not due to seasonal allergies)
• Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain.
• Muscle aches, unexplained fatigue, malaise (general feeling of discomfort, weakness, or illness that has recently developed)
• Headache
• Croup or “barking” cough
• Pink eye. 


Mark Gentili

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