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Statements from Medical Officers of Health

September 13, 2020 From Doctor Robert Cushman

We have had more cases in the last month than in the previous three months. Worse, this weekend we could possibly be witnessing our first serious community outbreak in Renfrew County and District (RCD).

Yes, we all have COVID-19 fatigue, but this is a marathon and we are in a key phase with new challenges. If we want schools to stay open and the economy to progress, we must recognize that individual vigilance and strict observance of public health recommendations are imperative. This is not the time to let down our guard but rather just the opposite.

The latest concerns about a school and a gym are a stark demonstration of how quickly things could go wrong. Renfrew County and District Health Unit (RCDHU) has identified more than 100 potential contacts since Friday. Our nurses are assessing individual situations and offering the appropriate advice. Strategic rather than blanket testing is essential. To get timely results, we must not overload the lab. Hopefully the around the clock work by our dedicated team can prevent or at least limit an outbreak.

Speaking of schools, let’s use this as a teaching moment to remind ourselves how each and every one of us should conduct ourselves in the time of COVID-19.

First of all, if you are sick, stay home. Don’t go to work. Equally important, have a “low bar” for COVID-19. The symptoms can mimic anything and everything, including health problems you may have had in the past. Do not make your own diagnosis, leave that to the health professionals and to the testing. Make arrangements through the Renfrew County Virtual Triage Assessment Centre (RCVTAC).

Secondly, if you are sick and are being tested, those in your immediate household should also stay at home and monitor themselves for symptoms while awaiting the result of your test.

Bubbles, bubbles, and bubbles. Keep them small, limit your social activities. We have seen all too well for example, what gyms, barbeques, bars, and parties can do. Recently in Ottawa, one individual who was sick resulted in 40 individuals testing positive for COVID-19 from a number of different households and other settings. All from one party! It can happen here too!

We need to constantly practice the fundamentals: handwashing, physical distancing, masking and be sure to:

  • Clean your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then clean your hands.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve and then clean your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, unless you have just cleaned your hands.
  • If you are ill, stay home.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Get your flu shot.

Lastly, knowing what to do if you have been exposed to COVID-19 is another way to protect yourself and your community. The COVID Alert App, available from the Ontario and Canadian Governments can be download onto your phone and it will notify you if you have been in contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. This tool can protect you, and it will help the public health nurses to do the best contact tracing possible. I highly recommend that you take-a-look at it and give it your serious consideration.

This is no time for complacency or distraction, but rather a time to renew our commitment to protecting RCD through strict adherence to the guidelines we all know well. We are in this together. Each and every one of us must do our part.

If you think you may have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, first self-isolate and then use Ontario's Self-Assessment Tool to see if you need to seek further care.

For more information about the COVID-19 Testing Schedule visit the RCVTAC website at or call 1-844-727-6404. For all other information, visit RCDHU’s website at or call 613-735-8654 or 1-800-267-1097. - 30 - Renfrew County and District Health Unit Fax: 613-735-3067


March 30, 2020 12:40 pm TORONTO — Today, Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, issued the following statement in response to COVID-19:

"The Government of Ontario continues to take decisive action to respond to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) to help contain its spread and to protect the public. This has involved some unprecedented measures, and I know many of you continue to undertake great efforts to protect your families, friends, neighbours, clients and patients, and communities.

However, we must do more. Everyone has a role to play in reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 - there is no option for anyone to opt out.

The lives of many Ontarians, especially our community's most vulnerable citizens, is in your hands and will depend on your actions over the coming days and weeks.

I strongly recommend you and other members of your household stay home except for essential reasons, such as to:

  • Access health care services;
  • Shop for groceries;
  • Pick-up medication at the pharmacy;
  • Walk pets when required; and
  • Support vulnerable community members with meeting the above needs.

To the fullest extent possible, you should also limit the number of these essential trips. However, when you are out in public you must adhere to physical distancing by reducing your exposure to other people outside of your household by keeping two metres from other people. 

Given the greater risk of severe outcomes to Ontarians who are elderly, I am also strongly recommending that individuals over 70 years of age self-isolate. This means only leaving home or seeing other people for essential reasons. Where possible, you should seek services over the phone or internet or ask for help from friends, family or neighbours with essential errands. This also applies to individuals who have compromised immune systems and/or underlying medical conditions.

As we have been saying repeatedly, it is critically important to wash your hands regularly (or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available), practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette, and avoid direct contact when greeting people.  

In addition, as previously communicated and mandated by the federal government, all individuals who are returning from travel outside of Canada must self-isolate for 14 days when they return. You must not go to work, grocery stores or on walks. You should also monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days after returning and contact your primary care provider or Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) if you experience symptoms of COVID-19.

I also ask that family members, individuals, neighbours, and services in our communities look at how they can support others by taking these necessary actions. This would allow seniors, other at-risk populations, and returning travellers to remain at home.

The government is continuing to support all of the dedicated health care providers and front-line workers who are focused on keeping Ontarians healthy and safe. 

We need to remember that we all have an obligation to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to our families, friends, neighbours, and communities. Please do not underestimate the impact that your actions will have in helping to stop the spread of this virus.

For more information on COVID-19, including the current status of the outbreak, the online self-assessment tool to help determine how to seek further care, how Ontario is responding, and how to self isolate, please visit Ontario's COVID-19 web page.

March 16, 2020 8:19 P.M. TORONTO — Today, Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health issued the following statement detailing enhanced public health measures to help contain the spread of COVID-19:

"Following a number of significant announcements regarding travel and public health measures over the past 72 hours, and after further consultations with my colleagues across Canada, I would like to take the opportunity to clarify my guidance to Ontarians on COVID-19.

This is an evolving situation, and your role in helping to manage the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario is critical. It is imperative that we take steps now and take steps together to reduce opportunities for transmission. I am asking for your cooperation in following the advice below as best you can over the coming weeks. By working together, we can make a difference in this outbreak and protect those among us who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.

The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, new cough and difficulty breathing, and these may occur within 14 days of an exposure to another case.

Additional closures

I am strongly recommending a further limitation to public gatherings from my advice on March 12, 2020. I am further advising Ontarians to avoid large gatherings of over 50 people. In addition, I am specifically requesting the closure of the following settings as soon as possible:

  • All recreational programs and libraries
  • All private schools
  • All daycares
  • All churches and other faith settings
  • All bars and restaurants, with the exception of restaurants that can shift to takeout/delivery mechanisms

If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19

Everyone in Ontario should be practicing social distancing to reduce their exposure to other people. This means that you can carry out daily activities, such as going to work (if you cannot work from home) and doing necessary shopping and appointments.

I ask that everyone in Ontario does their best to avoid close contact with people outside of their immediate families. Close contact includes being within 2 meters of another person. 

In addition:

If you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms, I recommend that you begin to self-monitor for a period of 14 days. This means that, in addition to social distancing, you should track how you feel. You should take your temperature daily and log any other symptoms that develop (e.g., sore throat, new cough). You can share these records with your primary care provider over the phone if you seek assessment services.

All persons over 70 years of age and individuals who are immunocompromised are advised to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. This means that you should only leave your home or see other people for essential reasons.  Where possible, you should seek services over the phone or internet or ask for help from friends, family or neighbours with essential errands.

If you have travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days

If you have travelled and are not a healthcare worker or another essential service worker, I ask that you self-isolate for 14 days since your arrival in Canada. People who are self-isolating should not go to work.

In addition:

  • Workers who have travelled and are part of workplaces that are essential to daily living are able to return to work as long as they are asymptomatic. However, they should self-monitor for a period of 14 days and identify themselves to their employer so that a plan can be put into place to ensure the protection of those workplaces.
  • Children under the age of 16 years who have travelled outside of Canada should also self-isolate for a period of 14 days. Parents should actively monitor their children's symptoms. Children who are self-isolating should stay at home and avoid social gathering points such as community centres or parks.

Public Health Ontario has excellent fact sheets on how to self monitor and self isolate.

If you start to feel symptoms of COVID-19 

I am requesting anyone who begins to feel unwell (fever, new cough or difficulty breathing) to return home and self-isolate immediately. People who are self-isolating should seek clinical assessment over the phone - either through TeleHealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) or by calling their primary care provider's office. If you need additional assessment, your primary care provider or TeleHealth will direct you to in-person care options. If you are in medical distress and need urgent care, you should call 911 and let them know what you are self-isolating because of COVID-19.

If you are an employer

I am asking all employers in Ontarians to facilitate virtual work arrangements to enable employees to work from home where possible to enable workers to limit their activities, care for children and to self isolate. However, I recognize that there are a number of workplaces where this is not possible. I would ask those employers to use their judgement to sustain operations in a manner that maintains social distancing.

If need to seek health care for COVID-19

If you are unwell and need to seek health assessment for COVID-19 there are three options to available:

  • Self Assessment Tool 
  • Telehealth Ontario 1-866-797-0000 (24/7)
  • Your primary care provider - call your primary care provider for a virtual assessment by phone or other technology. You should not book an in-person visit for COVID-19 assessment without first having a virtual assessment.

If you require an in-person health assessment, you will be referred to an appropriate location for in-person health assessment. Only people with COVID-19 symptoms will be tested.

I want to remind all Ontarians that there are important actions that they should be taking every day in order to protect your health. These include:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • sneeze and cough into your sleeve
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • avoid contact with people who are sick
  • stay at home if you are sick. In particular, do not visit a long-term care, retirement home or other congregate living situation.