The COVID-19 assessment centre is still open in Haliburton. Recent swabs have all come back negative. /File photo by Darren Lum

COVID-19 testing crucial in months to come

By Jenn Watt

All seven of those who were confirmed to have had the coronavirus in Haliburton County are no longer infected with the virus news that led to celebratory posts on social media over the weekend and affirms the importance of physical distancing and hand hygiene to help keep numbers of confirmed cases low.

Dr. Norm Bottum of the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team said it’s important that people continue to observe public health protocols and not become complacent about the virus.

“Everything’s great and everything’s isolated now [in Haliburton County] but as we start to open up our economy Haliburton being a tourist destination we’re going to have cases coming and going” Bottum said.

It will be important that people not dismiss their symptoms assuming it is a cold or flu and make an appointment to be tested.

Though there may be people with COVID-19 in the community who haven’t been diagnosed with the virus as of Monday there were no new cases in the county reported by the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit.

“Our assessment centre is still running. We’re still seeing patients regularly people coming in with symptoms. The swabs are coming back negative” Bottum said.

Positive COVID-19 case numbers are listed under the health unit of the infected person’s primary residence which has led to speculation in Haliburton County that there may be people testing positive for the virus and living at their secondary residence without their numbers being registered with the HKPR District Health Unit.

“There may be people who have active cases who are isolating at their cottages we don’t know about because they get screened in Toronto and are told to isolate and they [could say] ‘well I’m going to go to my cottage for two weeks to isolate’ so we don’t know that because they don’t come into our stats” he said.

Bottum said while it is possible there are currently cottagers with positive cases out there he’s not aware of them.

“Well they might be but they’re not coming to our hospitals they’re not coming to our office they’re not coming to our assessment centre” he said.

Overall Bottum said Haliburton County and the rest of Ontario has been doing well in its efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“Things are good. Again this is step 1 … mitigating the curve. All of Ontario’s done a great job of mitigating the curve. We’ve been unfortunate with our long-term care facilities but as far as overcrowding ICUs and overusing ventilators and exposing a lot of health-care workers to the coronavirus it’s actually been quite good compared to a lot of other areas” he said.

However with the warmer weather coming and the prospect of more people heading north to their cottages people will need to continue to be careful.

“We’re going to have to be diligent and that’s where our testing capacity is really important so we can pick cases up early” Bottum said “because we know people might spread the virus for a day or two before they become sick. So if you become sick on Tuesday we’re going to want to know what your movements were Sunday Monday and perhaps notify people or put people on alert.”

As of Monday April 27 there were 156 cases of COVID-19 in the HKPR District Health Unit region 113 cases are deemed “resolved.” Thirty-two deaths have been recorded from the virus none of those was in Haliburton County.