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Public Health will not publicly identify people, locations related to COVID-19

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) has received several inquiries about positive COVID-19 cases, asking for identification of individuals’ location, employers, and self-isolation status.

The board stated today HPEPH operates under strict guidelines that prohibit the organization from sharing any information that could reveal the identity of an individual and warns residents to take all necessary precautions to protect themselves, regardless of the location of confirmed cases.

“This means that HPEPH will not be making public statements about the specific location, or age, of positive cases,” the board stated today, following its monthly meeting, held by teleconference. “While HPEPH is working with employers who may need to respond to confirmed positive cases in their organization, public health will not be publicly releasing any statements on such situations until the employer has had the opportunity to notify their staff and make their own statement.”

Despite efforts to protect individual privacy, the board stated residents can be reassured that any identified close contacts of confirmed positive cases are being contacted, provided with a risk assessment, and advised to self isolate – minimizing risk to the community.

As of March 31, there were more than 250 probable cases in Hastings and Prince Edward counties, 13 lab confirmed cases and one death related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Six are related to travel, four to close contact, and three to transmission in the community, including the fatal case.

At its monthly meeting April 1, by teleconference, the board heard hundreds of local individuals have been tested, and HPEPH has received reports on more than 200 completed lab tests.

As numbers of both confirmed and probable cases continue to grow in the region, HPEPH is reinforcing the need for all residents to exercise physical distancing and infection control practices at every opportunity.

“The cases we are seeing today, are the results of activities and transmission that took place up to two weeks ago,” said Dr. Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health and CEO at HPEPH. “If we are diligent with our physical distancing efforts, and everyone recognizes the need to take this seriously and act now, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

Individuals concerned about their risk of COVID-19 can receive an assessment and be screened for self-isolation needs, as well as determine if testing is required. Over the month of March, the intake line responded to more than 3,200 phone calls.

HPEPH shares emerging information to support local implementation of national, provincial, and community directives, working with local healthcare providers, governments, employers, and community organizations to respond to concerns about the risk of COVID-19 and support the health and safety of the community.

Community Assessment Centres are to be co-ordinated by the province.

“Our partners in Ontario Health are leading the development of local assessment centres, and we are looking forward to their implementation which will help increase local capacity for assessment and testing,” stated Oglaza. “Any local testing implemented through these assessment centres would continue to follow Public Health Ontario’s testing guidelines.”

The system is currently responding to testing and assessment needs with existing capacity through a variety of channels such as community paramedicine, public health, and hospitals.

Currently, assessment is available to anyone who believes they have been exposed to COVID-19, and testing is available to those who qualify under the guidelines.

“Right now, testing is being prioritized to ensure those who need the tests most receive appropriate care,” he said.

For complete information on COVID-19, and current numbers for Hastings Prince Edward, visit the HPEPH website.

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