Residents of an entire health unit in Ontario have been told to temporarily consider themselves a carrier of COVID-19 while officials conduct contact tracing.
On April 15, Grey Bruce Public Health (GBPH) said it confirmed 70 new virus cases in the last 36 hours and that “hundreds” of additional close contacts were possible.
The health unit identified several drivers of transmission, including individuals who have been defying lockdown orders and visiting others while symptomatic.
Social gatherings and “bush parties” attended by high schoolers have also been deemed a factor in the virus’ recent spread, GBPH added.
People have been “untruthful” when public health officials ask questions intended to help with contact tracing and case management, which officials said has “worsened the issue.”
“Everyone across Grey Bruce needs to consider themselves a carrier for the next 48 hours until we reach all case[s] and their contacts,” the health unit warned.
“It is a priority that everyone stay at home except for essential travel.”
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Officials said it might take up to three days to contact all cases and their respective close contacts as its capacity is “stretched to the limit.”
The public health unit said it would redeploy staff, including those from its vaccine program and helpline, to assist with the contact tracing and case management effort.
As a result, a large immunization clinic that had been planned for April 17 will be cancelled. Clinics scheduled for next week may be shut down as well.
“The Grey Bruce Health Unit is declaring a critical threshold of COVID-19 cases,” the health unit said.
“If we do not implement drastic measures at this juncture, the pandemic will spiral out of control.”
To date, Ontario has seen 403,571 COVID-19 cases and 7,639 virus-related deaths.