At a Tele-Town Hall organized by the City of Brampton to update residents on the response to the COVID-19 health crisis, Peel Regions new Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh gave a compelling argument for residents to continue to practice social distance and hygiene practices. We’ve taken the liberty to edit a transcript of his update below.
I’ve been asked to give a bit of an overview around the current situation around COVID-19 and Peel Public Health’s response to it. I wanted to start at the outset by really stating and highlighting a very important difference in context that you are seeing often in the media in the United States. The progression of the COVID-19 disease is actually very different from the situation in Canada and I would say the U.S. is much further along in their COVID-19 outbreak.
There are many reasons for why that is but here in Peel and here in Canada we are only really starting to see early stages of local transmission. We do know that local transmission has been established in Toronto, and we do know that there are cases here that are likely local transmission that we in Peel Public Health are currently investigating. This should not alarm or panic anybody.
The reality about controlling an outbreak is that you actually have to determine when is the best place to implement social distancing measures and what you want to do is ideally implement social distancing measures once the disease is established in your community but before it has had time to cause significant health impacts. So if anything we in Peel and in Canada are in what I would call a golden period in actually being able to flatten the curve and control this outbreak. The reality is that if you stop everything too early before the disease is in your community you interrupt and really impact community life without necessarily stopping transmission because the disease is not there. If you stop things too late then you start seeing pictures as we have in other jurisdictions around the world.
So we are actually in a very very interesting opportunity where and Dr. Martino I hope you can confirm this but I know we’ve been in regular conversation where we’re not seeing the severity of the disease in our health care system just yet. Although we know it will come as it spreads but fortunately we’re also at this place where we can take measure to actually address it and slow its spread in our community. So that essentially speaks to a lot of the recent declarations that have come forward. I’ve been very thankful for folks in Brampton who have really adhered to the provincial orders that have really spoken to closing many different types of facilities and specifically to bars and restaurants.
All of the measures that have been taken of late have been to try to capture this golden period so that we can reduce the number of social interactions in our community and reduce the possibility that the disease might spread.
There are 25 cases of COVID-19 that have been identified through testing and Peel and nine of them are in Brampton. With every single case we have a team of public health nurses and epidemiologists who are out there determining where this person may have been and where they may have gone to ensure that any exposures and any people who may have contacted them are told to take appropriate precautions like self isolation. That essentially has been the form and function of our response since we learned of this in the late part of 2019 emerging in China and has really kept the disease at bay together with our health care partners throughout the midst of flu season for almost for the better part of two months.
There are things that you can do to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. I would encourage you all to think about these as we go forward. Really the biggest one that I would speak to is gatherings. Gatherings are particularly challenging for public health especially for case and contact management. Even 50 people, that means 50 potential contacts if someone at that gathering tests positive for COVID-19. So to the extent that residents can cancel and avoid large public gatherings and celebrations like weddings at banquet halls. We really encourage you to reschedule those or postpone those big milestones for more ordinary times. We also encourage work from home as much as possible if your employment permits it. Certainly spend maybe more time at home to slow the spread.
If you do go out we do encourage you to continue to avoid touching your eyes mouth and nose as much as possible. Wash your hands frequently and regularly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. If you have been asked to self monitor, self isolate, follow that advice and do stay home. Also, stay home and self isolate if you have recently returned from travel outside of Canada or have any symptoms that you may be experiencing. These are all measures that we can take during this golden period to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in our community.
I wanted to also mention that Peel Public Health has been working diligently both in terms of trying to communicate accurate and timely information through our call centers and also through people who have presented for testing. I do want to note that we are dealing with an unprecedented volume of calls and tests and we do recognize that this is causing a lot of frustration for people. I regret that deeply we are in the process with our emergency response trying to train up as many staff as we can to ensure that we are addressing these pressing needs in the community.
There are a number of resources that are available on the website and I want to highlight a few things that you can think about if you’re concerned about COVID-19. The biggest advice I can that I can offer at this time is that if you do not have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, whether you have traveled or not, you do not need to necessarily be tested. So if you have no symptoms whatsoever, no testing is required. What we do ask is that if you have returned from abroad that you do self isolate for 14 days. If you haven’t traveled it’s a matter of self monitoring just making sure that you’re cognizant of whether you have symptoms and making sure that you’re also limiting your time outside which is helping to reduce spread.
I did want to close again by saying that we must act all together as a community in order to reduce the spread through social distancing. I also personally recognize that many of these recommendations can create challenges for families and businesses. I myself am someone who enjoys a nice dinner out or a time out but I do recognize that this is the moment where we need to act in order to reduce spread within our community and slow and flatten the curve.
So we encourage residents certainly to take those precautionary measures to protect your health. This is our moment to change the tide around the corona virus and i look forward to working with all of you on this.
The full audio transcript of the Tele-Town Hall with responses to call-in questions is available on the City of Brampton’s COVID-19 website.