While the province may be getting over the first peak of COVID-19, Dr. Norm Bottum of Haliburton says there could be a second, and subsequent, peaks before a safe vaccine is rolled out in possibly a year’s time.

Speaking from the Haliburton Hospital on April 21, he said, “things are nice and quiet but we are a long way from being out of the woods.”

Haliburton Highlands Health Services CEO Carolyn Plummer echoed the sentiment, telling The Highlander on April 21, it’s too soon to know for certain whether the virus has peaked in our region.

“We are in regular communication with our local public health unit and will continue to monitor the situation. In the meantime, we remain focused on ensuring we are prepared to safely manage through the COVID-19 pandemic and to continue supporting our community, particularly those who are most vulnerable.”

Dr. Bottum said it appeared Ontarians had done a great job of mitigating the initial surge. He added the County has been fortunate to have only seven confirmed cases since people travelled for March break, returned from Florida and cottagers are coming despite pleas not to.

In particular, he said we’ve been lucky it has not hit our long-term care homes.

“We have had the benefit of time to get prepared and be ready,” he said of preventative measures at Highland Wood and Hyland Crest.

He also credited non-essential businesses for shutting and following health guideless. However, he remains cautious.

“This is the first phase. The big thing is we’re in Haliburton County, cottage county, and in another month, people will want to come up. There’s a risk of still introducing the virus.”

He said it will be key to see how the provincial regulations roll out from here since “that virus is still out there.”

He personally predicts it will be a quiet summer in Haliburton County with a majority of events being cancelled.

As for HHHS, he said “we’ll probably have to carry measures right through the summer.” That means maintaining 21 COVID-19 acute care beds in Haliburton and nine non-COVID-19 beds in Minden; separating the hospital sites and ensuring long-term care homes are isolated from the hospital buildings to avoid cross-contamination. He said the assessment centre will likely remain is place as well with more people being encouraged to do self-assessments and getting swabbed. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has changed the assessment to include more symptoms. It is also encouraging essential workers to be screened.

“Getting a swab is the key, especially as we start opening up the economy.”

He said he anticipates the recovery will be staged but “even at stage 3 we’ll be still social distancing, regular hand washing, and avoiding large groups.

“I think it’s going to be slow and cautious.”

In its weekly community update, HHHS said “we are implementing further measures to separate both Long-Term Cares facilities (Highland Wood and Hyland Crest) from the hospitals, and better protect the health and safety of our residents.”

How you can help HHHS

• Volunteering with the HHHS Community Response Team to help deliver groceries or offer friendly visiting by phone. Contact 705-457-2941 or infocc@hhhs.ca for more information. • SIRCH Community Services is helping to coordinate the creation of fabric face masks. Visit sirch.on.ca and look for “Can You Sew? Sewing for a Great Cause” under the ‘News’ section for more information.

• Stay informed via local media. HHHS is also keeping HaliburtonCares.ca up-to-date with new information about supports from local service providers, different levels of government (including emergency financial assistance), and more.

Clarificiation: In last Thursday’s Highlander, “HHHS responds with unprecedented action,” Plummer said, although it is true that funding specifics have not yet been detailed for COVID-19 related changes, such as new acute care beds, the actions were sanctioned by the Ministry of Health.

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