Health unit may extend isolation order for those not tested for COVID-19

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Renfrew County residents may now be required to self-isolate for almost three weeks if they are considered a “probable” case of COVID-19 and refuse to get tested for the virus.

The Renfrew County and District Health Unit issued an updated “class order” Wednesday under Section 22 of the province’s Health Protection and Promotion Act.

According to the order, anyone who is a “confirmed” or “probable” case of COVID-19 must “immediately” begin to self-isolate “in accordance with instructions provided by RCDHU.”

“This includes remaining in your home or isolation facility,” the order says.

“Do not go outside, unless on to a private balcony or enclosed yard where you can avoid close contact with others. You must not have any visitors into your home except as permitted by RCDHU.”

Those affected must remain in self-isolation for 10 days, unless they are fully vaccinated under provincial guidelines.

The 10-day isolation period may also be extended “based on ongoing or new exposures to a confirmed case, new symptoms, or test results.”

“Additionally, if you do not get tested for COVID-19, you may be required to complete a 20-day isolation period in the event of heightened concern for transmission.”

Beyond those who are confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, the order also applies to anyone with “signs and symptoms” of COVID who is waiting for the results of a test, or anyone who has “reasonable grounds to believe they now have one or more symptoms (even mild symptoms) of COVID-19.”

The order also applies if you are a “close contact of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 or are a close contact of a person identified as a probable case of COVID-19.”

“Close contact means you are caring for or living in the same household with someone who has COVID-19 or have otherwise been identified as a close contact by the Medical Officer of Health or Renfrew County and District Health Unit (RCDHU) staff acting under the direction of the Medical Officer of Health.”

During self-isolation, you must “conduct yourself in such a manner as not to expose another person to infection of COVID-19” and “keep away from vulnerable persons including persons who have an underlying medical condition, compromised immune system from a medical condition or treatment, person 60 years of age or older, or person who is reliant upon a homeless shelter or other congregate living setting.”

The order says the self-isolation requirements may be modified for anyone “who, in the opinion of RCDHU is asymptomatic and provides an essential service,” or who is “receiving essential medical services or treatments, whether or not related to COVID-19.”

The orders may also be modified “where a person’s isolation, in the opinion of RCDHU, would not be in the public interest.”

The health unit says the order must be implemented so that “community transmission of COVID-19 is minimized or eliminated.”

“COVID-19 is present in RCDHU,” the order says.

“An increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 will increase community disease transmission, increase the potential for outbreaks in congregate settings, and affect the morbidity and mortality of persons living within RCDHU jurisdiction.”

Anyone who fails to comply with a Section 22 order can be charged under the Health Protection and Promotion Act and could face fines of up to $5,000 a day.

The health unit previously issued a Section 22 order with a maximum of 14 days of self-isolation back at the end of October 2020.

Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health for Renfrew County and District, said the updated order was issued in part to encourage people to get tested if there’s a chance they may have COVID.

“This is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” he said. “People are getting more obstructive and less co-operative.”

The county has seen a rise in the number of cases recently, with 16 confirmed cases in the past two weeks after just five in the whole month of August.

As of Wednesday, there were currently three active cases in the county.

On Friday, the health unit reported an outbreak of four cases at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College (SWC) in Barry’s Bay.

“All contacts have been notified and there is no concern about risk to the public or other students and staff at this time,” the health unit said.

“RCDHU is working closely with SWC to ensure necessary measures continue to be in place.”

Across Ontario, the province reported 463 new cases of COVID Wednesday, down from a high of 864 last Thursday.

The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 693, the first time it has been below 700 since August 30.

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