Grey Bruce Health Unit no longer in COVID-19 critical threshold after cases drop, contact tracing

After urging Grey Bruce residents to stay home for up to three days in mid-April due to soaring COVID-19 cases and problems with conducting mass contact tracing, the region’s medical officer of health says the community is no longer in a “critical threshold” state.

“Grey Bruce in general for the past year had optimal control over the pandemic … last week we experienced a critical threshold of surge that raised a three- or four-fold increase in the average daily increases and we had to raise the alarm,” Dr. Ian Arra told Global News on Thursday.

“This is a pandemic of the highest calibre and with fatigue cumulative over one year, plus the variants of concern another part of the equation, that makes the challenge more significant.”

In an extraordinary statement issued on April 14, the health unit said there were more than 70 COVID-19 cases identified in 36 hours.

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“Everyone across Grey Bruce needs to consider themselves a carrier for the next 48 hours until we reach all cases and their contacts,” the statement said.

Read more: Grey Bruce Health Unit declares COVID-19 critical threshold amid case surge, ‘untruthful’ contact tracing

Officials attributed the uptick to people not following Ontario’s lockdown restrictions. It was also reported people with COVID-19 symptoms attended social gatherings and high school-aged youth attended bush parties. They also said people were “untruthful” when contact tracing and case management inquiries were made.

Health unit staff said they were forced to close the COVID-19 phone information line and cancel a vaccination clinic in order to redirect staff to contact up to approximately 500 people identified as close contacts of those who tested positive for the virus.

“As soon as you lose contact tracing and management, you lose control over the pandemic,” Arra said.

He went on to note 1,000 vaccines set to be administered at the clinic, which didn’t haven’t appointments booked, were redirected to 42 shelters and congregate settings.

Read more: Public health confirms COVID-19 community outbreak in eastern Grey County

Officials thanked people for staying home during the ramp-up on contact tracing, noting many organizations and businesses temporarily closed in support of the effort.

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According to Ontario government data, before the April outbreak the highest number of new cases confirmed in the region during a single day was 21 (Nov. 20). On April 15, 46 cases were recorded on that day. Of the eight following days, five saw double-digit additional cases.

When cases across the province dropped in August, for instance, there were many days the health unit reported zero new confirmed cases. Between the second and third waves in mid-February, the upper total of new confirmed cases hovered around five or six a day.

Arra encouraged residents to keep following public health measures, especially with increased transmission of more contagious COVID-19 variants.

“We’re not out of the woods yet and our community will definitely deliver by staying the course with the three Ws: Washing hands frequently, wearing a mask correctly and watching our distance two metres or more,” he said.

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