No new cases of COVID-19 reported in Chatham-Kent

No new cases of COVID-19 were reported Thursday in Chatham-Kent for the first time in almost a month.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. NIAID-RML / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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No new cases of COVID-19 were reported Thursday in Chatham-Kent for the first time in almost a month.

The municipality’s cumulative total actually dropped by one to 336 cases because a false positive was taken off the books.

The last day with no cases reported by the Chatham-Kent public health unit had been July 15.

There are 77 active cases. Four people are hospitalized.

The two active workplace outbreaks are down to a total of two active cases.

There have been 257 recoveries, and “a large number of people” are about to join their ranks after going through an isolation period, said Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing that active case number drop substantially,” he said.

Colby is “reasonably confident” that people with active cases and their close contacts are staying home when they’re told to.

“My team follows up either every day or, at the very least, every other day by telephone with every single person that is under isolation orders,” he said. “This is a tremendously labour-intensive task. It requires a lot of people spending a lot of time doing that.

“If they have the impression that there’s road noise, for example, when people are talking on the phone or if they have a defiant attitude, that they’re not interested in complying with our isolation instructions, then I issue a legally binding Section 22 order (under the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act) that is served by the police that is associated with a $5,000-a-day fine.”

The threat of an order is enough to make most people comply, Colby said. He’s issued “about 12” orders, but no one has been fined.

“The vast majority of people are community-minded and say, ‘OK, well, if I can be an infection hazard to somebody, I will do my part and I will stay home and take all the precautions that are necessary,’” he said. “There’s another group of people that need to be reminded with a more stern attitude that if they don’t comply, such an order will be issued. You’ll be forced to do it anyway, so why not comply voluntarily?”

The recent surge in cases in Chatham-Kent has been traced to the Low German-speaking community. The community may have felt targeted by the public health unit’s reports about an outbreak that covered “many, many counties,” but that wasn’t the intention, Colby said.

“These people got hit hard by this and all of our efforts have been to try and help them,” he said. “But I don’t believe we have overemphasized the nature of those outbreaks, especially with regard to the proportion of cases in Chatham-Kent that came from that group.

“We have endeavoured to make all of our reporting very culturally sensitive and sympathetic to their needs, but the reality is there was a large outbreak in that population and it needed to be dealt with. The anxiety in Chatham-Kent was really at a fever pitch when our numbers started going up.”

The public’s right to know had to be balanced against the upset feelings of a group identified for its higher rate of infection, he said.

The same thing happened last week with the boating community, Colby said. Twelve positive cases in Chatham-Kent were traced to a group of boaters who’d travelled to eastern Ontario, and other boaters took offence at the reporting.

“I think we’re still under 15 cases there,” Colby said about the boat trip.