By Lisa Gervais

Haliburton County is entering a critical stage in the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Norm Bottum of the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team said.

To date, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Haliburton County. However, there have been cases in the City of Kawartha Lakes and Muskoka, “and we should all assume there are cases in Haliburton that have not been picked up yet,” he said.

He added that people have been returning from March break trips, and from wintering in Florida, and the community has to continue to be vigilant.

“Now is a very important time to limit any spread of the virus in our region. The next two weeks are extremely important if we are going to limit the impact of this disease,” he said.

Dr. Bottum added that, “most unwell patients will not have COVID-19. We know that from swab results so far. We also know that most of those with COVID-19 will have mild to moderate symptoms and will not need to come to hospital.

“Our resources may be stretched both in supplies and personnel and if we observe guidelines, we hope to be able to respond to everyone’s needs during this crisis safely over the next few months.”

Guidelines, including for cottagers, snowbirds

County Warden Liz Danielsen has said people must follow guidelines for the safety of County residents.

“It has come to our attention that unfortunately, there have been some violations of best practices around self-isolation throughout our community,” Danielsen said. “The only chance we have at this time in keeping COVID-19 outside of our County, and helping to combat the spread in Ontario and beyond, is for residents and visitors to practice social distancing to the greatest extent possible, and when required, self isolate. The longer these directives are ignored, the longer we will be dealing with the consequences.”

She also addressed the issues of seasonal residents descending on the community to self-isolate. She said the County’s Emergency Control Group had discussed the issue at some length, “recognizing that service delivery during normal times can be a challenge at the peak of the summer season in Haliburton, but during an emergency situation, particularly one that none of us have experienced before, service delivery becomes even more difficult.”

Danielsen added that, “while we want to welcome our seasonal residents, our health facilities are taxed to serve the folks that are here now, that are afraid they have been hit with the virus. We are extremely reluctant to tell people who pay taxes and own homes here that they can’t self isolate in those homes where they may feel safer than they would in the city.

“They simply need to understand that they may be putting themselves at risk by coming, and then needing health care that is beyond our capability to deliver,” she said.

HHHS looking for help

Meanwhile, HHHS put out an appeal for health care workers March 24 to help with the local COVID-19 response.

“Nurses are in high demand at this time, as is anyone who has a background in personal care from a variety of settings including: home support workers/personal care attendants, dental hygienists, etc.,” a release said.

HHHS said it would support the training and orientation for the skills required to support patients and residents.

President and CEO Carolyn Plummer said, “while we are currently able to meet the staffing needs with our existing complement of health care workers, we have been learning from the experience of other jurisdictions locally and internationally, and recognize the need to be proactive in ensuring we have staffing resources for the anticipated increase in need as this situation progresses.”

If you’re interested, contact: Carl Carr, human resources manager, HHHS hr@hhhs.ca Phone: 705-457- 1392, extension 2254.

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