A spike in COVID-19 cases – including the high school and two long-term care homes – has come as health partners in Haliburton County prepare to begin vaccinating the general public starting March 22.
Haliburton is at nine active cases as of March 18. The booking system for vaccinations for people aged 80-plus also went online, with the first clinic at the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team.
Haliburton Highlands Secondary School (HHSS) has closed four classes after two students tested positive for COVID-19. HHSS announced that some students would have to quarantine at home, and get tested, in a notice to parents March 14.
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR) has been contacting all close contacts to provide directions. These are the first cases associated with any schools in the County since the pandemic began.
Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) communications officer, Sinead Fegan, said the incidences have prompted additional cleaning and sanitization.
“The safety of our students and staff is most important and we continue to follow all public health protocols,” Fegan said.
Students not identified as close contacts are continuing to go to class as usual. They do not need to stay home and isolate or go for testing unless they start showing symptoms or do not pass the self-screening tool. Fegan said three classes are identified as close contacts by the health unit and must quarantine until March 22, though that is subject to change based on symptoms or test results. All three classes are moving to remote learning.
A fourth class is not considered a close contact but is being closed and moved to remote learning out of caution. Those students do not need to quarantine or get tested.
Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) announced outbreaks at its two long-term care homes this past week. But a Highland Wood outbreak was called off March 17. This was due to two staff members who initially tested positive subsequently testing negative. All residents also tested negative.
The health unit had opted to declare an outbreak early out of caution, before the second set of tests, due to rising cases in the area.
“We appreciate this cautious approach to ensure the safety of our residents,” HHHS president and CEO Carolyn Plummer said.
An outbreak remains it place at the Hyland Crest home after it was declare March 12. It came after one staff member tested positive for the virus. All other staff and residents, who have already received vaccinations, tested negative for the virus.
It is the second declared outbreak at Hyland Crest. Another one occurred Jan. 31-Feb. 14 after two essential caregivers tested positive, though no staff or residents were positive in that period.
Vaccination clinics to begin March 22
The increase in cases comes as the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team/Haliburton Family Medical Centre is planning to start immunizing the County’s 80-plus population starting March 22. They said plans rely on vaccine inventory but clinics are scheduled at 7217 Gelert Rd. from March 22-26, 1-6 p.m., March 27, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., and March 29-30, 1-6 p.m.
If people show up without an appointment they will not be seen, a spokesperson said. The provincial booking number is 1-888-999-6488 and the online portal is covid19.ontariohealth.ca/
If you have a red and white health card you must call the booking number as you will not be able to register online. You may also call the number if you do not have a computer or the ability to book online. You will receive a booking confirmation that you must bring with you the day of your appointment. Booking is also possible at clinics outside the County and district if space is available.
They will likely not be scanning QR codes, so be sure to have your booking code ready. If people over 80 require transportation, they can contact community support services at 705- 457-2941 extension 1.
Permanent vaccine clinics announced
The health unit has confirmed Haliburton will have two permanent clinics at A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton and S.G. Nesbitt Arena in Minden March 18.
The clinics are expected to be ready in April. They are not yet available for booking in the provincial system but the health unit said they will be in the coming weeks.
“We understand that it has been frustrating, but we need to ensure that there is a dose of vaccine available for every appointment and I would ask people to be patient and go back into the system in the coming weeks to check for additional clinics,” acting medical officer of health Dr. Ian Gemmill said.
Dysart et al said with the announcement, the arena will be closed for bookings effective March 20 to the end of September 2020.