The Leeds, Grenville, Lanark region emerged from the blockade across the province in the green zone, the least restricted level in the COVID-19 provincial framework, on February 16 a status it enjoyed a month ago until it turned yellow.
About a week later Monday, the region entered the red zone.
Leeds, Grenville, Lanark County Health Unit (LGL) saw 76 new cases this weekend alone. Last week, it set a record with 139 COVID-19 cases, the highest number of new cases in a seven-day period.
Experts say it is a prime example of how quickly COVID-19 is able to spread and serves as a warning to other regions with cheaper restrictions.
Health Medical Officer Dr. Paula Stewartpoints at a curling club in Perth, Ont., As the source of the external outbreak and the reason for a rapid infection, spreading throughout the region.
The province has announced that LGL will move into the Red Framework Control Area from Monday 22 March. Read the full media release to see what changes will take effect: https://t.co/jkxk1fm1SG pic.twitter.com/qwZDRPTuDF
So far, none of the cases have been identified as a variant of concern but the spread has been caused by “people involving contact with each other, many people together without masks,” Stewart said.
Last week, Stewart told CBCreopening in green it likely gave residents the wrong message that the pandemic for the region was over.
“I think people relaxed a little more,” she said.
Explosion ‘can happen anywhere’
Dr. Doug Manuel, a senior scientist at Ottawa Hospital, said navigation restrictions can be tricky. There is usually a greater chance of more contact in crowded places.
“There’s potential for a spillover event or rapid spread. There’s potential there in the green zone where there would be no when you were in a deadlock,” Manuel said.
He said this does not mean that regions should avoid moving to green if they are able to. The key to preventing the spread of infection, Manuel said, is a quick response when areas see cases, pointing to Canada’s East Coast or New Zealand as examples of countries that have successfully erupted outbreaks.
In those cases, officials have been able to do extensive contact tracking, but it requires a lot of resources to manage all possible contacts, Manuel said.
For her part, Stewart warned that the outbreak in her region “could happen anywhere”, and that despite how many restrictions exist “it is so critical to follow precautions”.
It is a situation that puts pressure on the local health care system, according to Mary Wilson Trider, president and CEO of Almonte General Hospital and Carleton Place & District Memorial Hospital.
Trider said staff and doctors have not escaped “the impact of infections on the community”.
The challenge is to make sure there are enough staff to continue operations at the hospital, she said.
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