Health unit orders household contacts to stay home

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The Renfrew County and District Health Unit will require all household contacts of individuals with a positive test for COVID-19 to stay home until they have received a negative test result, even if they have been vaccinated and show no symptoms of the disease.

Acting medical officer of health Dr. Robert Cushman announced the move Friday.

Previously, individuals who were vaccinated and asymptomatic were not required to self-isolate, even if a household contact was positive.

The health unit said “recent increases in the number of cases in Renfrew County and District (RCD) and the rapid spread to household contacts are major concerns.”

“Our track record in RCD is strong with nearly 90% of eligible individuals having received their first dose, and 86% of residents fully vaccinated. There is a strong adherence to masking and physical distancing and most indoor settings require proof of vaccination for entry,” Dr. Cushman said.

But “we all need to do our part to get through the colder months without serious setbacks,” he added.

“This includes getting vaccinated, adhering to masking and physical distancing, limiting gatherings to small groups especially when gathering indoors, and co-operating with public health officials if you are identified as a case or a contact.”

The order for household contacts to isolate at home was made under Section 22 of the province’s Health Protection and Promotion Act. Those who do not comply could face fines.

“We recognize that this is an inconvenience and want to thank the residents of RCD for their co-operation and efforts to limit the spread. I encourage you all to keep up the good work,” Cushman said.

The new health order comes after a number of new cases of COVID have been reported in the county this week.

The largest number were reported following a field training exercise November 13-14 at Garrison Petawawa involving more than 400 individuals. At least seven soldiers and three family contacts have tested positive following the event.

All individuals involved in the training exercise and their household contacts have been ordered to isolate until midnight November 26.

The health unit reported three new cases of COVID Friday, bringing the total number of active cases in the district to 15.

In a video message last Friday, Cushman said it’s “very important” that the one out of nine county residents who have not yet been vaccinated get their shot.

Roughly 85 per cent of county residents over 12 have now received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

But Cushman said the numbers are about one in three between the ages of 18 and 40.

“This is particularly bothersome, because this allows the virus to take hold in our community,” he said.

Cushman said that means when you combine the unvaccinated with children under 12 who are not yet eligible to receive vaccine shots, that means there are about 25,000 people in the county who are not vaccinated.

“And this is more than enough for the virus to take hold,” he said.

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