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Jul. 7, 2020 | Tuesday
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NOTL has had 21 cases of COVID-19 so far, region says. All but 3 patients have recovered
File photo.

After repeated requests from residents and political representatives, Niagara Region public health has released the total case numbers of COVID-19 by municipality.

Niagara-on-the-Lake has had a total of 21 cases as of Wednesday, three which were still active.

The numbers show NOTL has done well, especially in its long-term care facilities, which across the country have experiences thousands of infections and numerous deaths.

The statistics show of the 21 cases, all came from travel, close contact or community spread.

There have been nine travel-related cases, five community-spread cases and seven close contact cases. The number of deaths by municipality has not been released.

Niagara's acting chief medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, said people should keep in mind that the numbers don’t necessarily reflect where people are getting infected.

“What we have here is where a person lives. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s where someone may have contracted from. If someone is regularly going to a store in another municipality, working in a third municipality, it’s possible they could have got their infection in any one of those places, and we don’t really know that. We can only really code them by where they live.”

He said there’s also a delay in time from when a person might be exposed to infection and when they are tested.

“So, we’re looking back probably close to two weeks, in terms of when someone might actually have had the contact that led to exposure. This isn’t necessarily reflective of right now, it’s more reflective of what may have happened in the past.”

He said as far as active cases, those are the ones that are potentially still infectious, however those people have been isolated.

“So they wouldn’t really be around and potentially spreading infection.”

The main risk comes from people who haven’t been tested, “Because otherwise we would have already identified them.

He said a key thing to remember is the numbers don’t show what the risk is, or where the risk is, but that everybody in Niagara is potentially at some risk.

“Everybody I think in Niagara is potentially at some risk, so we all need to take measures to continue protecting ourselves and protecting everybody else around us. That means we need to keep up our physical distancing, we need to continue being really good about hand hygiene, we need to avoid going out for frivolous reasons, make sure we’re going out to get something important done.”

Of the 21 cases in NOTL, two were related to outbreaks at health care facilities, but not facilities in NOTL.

“What this likely reflects is that there are people who live in Niagara-on-the-Lake who may have become infected because they work in an outbreak facility, or you had people who live in NOTL who are hospitalized in a hospital ward that underwent an outbreak.”

Niagara-on-the-Lake long-term care homes have not had an outbreak so far.

As far as things reopening and what that could look like for Niagara, Hirji said it’s difficult to know.

“It’s hard to obviously predict the future to know for sure,” he said.

“I think a positive part is, of course, that lots of people who have been hurting by not being able to work, or having their small business not operating, are fortunately going to be able to start getting back to work and hopefully start to make that livelihood again," he said.

"There is, of course, the risk that more people are going to be out and shopping at the local businesses, and that’s certainly something that we do want to see, people supporting our local businesses, but there’s also a risk that people can start transmitting infection because they might be integrating more closely."

That means it is really important in the next while as businesses reopen, "because COVID-19 is not gone yet, that we keep physical distancing up, we keep washing our hands frequently.”

The other message Niagara's public health department wanst to emphasize is that people should get tested.

“We want to make sure we’re finding as many infections out in the community as possible. When we know about an infection, we can isolate the person, we can do our contact tracing and isolate the contacts, and stop that infection from spreading any further.”

He encourages anyone with any symptoms, even mild ones, such as a runny nose, to contact public health for testing.

“The more we can identify the cases, obviously we control the outbreak better, and again it gives more freedom for government to keep opening things up.”

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