Editor’s note: This story originally stated that the positive case of COVID-19 was found at Lakeland Family Health Team’s Denbigh location, whereas in fact, the positive case was found at the Northbrook location. The story has been changed to reflect that.
Lakelands Family Health Team, based in Northbrook, Ont., in Addington Highlands, has been forced to close its doors after a health care worker at their centre was diagnosed with COVID-19.
The health centre’s Denbigh, Ont., site was closed last week to focus efforts on the health team’s Northbrook site in light of the pandemic. Now, both of the health facilities are closed.
It’s currently unclear which other health care facility has had a health care professional diagnosed with COVID-19, but Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health of KFL&A Public Health, says in total, of the three newest cases identified in the region on Wednesday, at least two of those were health care workers.
“What is a bit disconcerting, and I want to be upfront,” said Moore, “is that the last couple of tests have come back in health care workers who are working in primary care clinics in our area, so, two different family practices in our region.”
In a Facebook post published Tuesday, Lakelands Family Health Team said they were closing indefinitely, until KFL&A Public Health gives them the green light to open once again.
A spokesperson for the health centre assured Global News that public health officials were in the process of contacting close-contacts and telling them to quarantine for 14 days.
The health centre currently serves about 4,000 patients in the region. Moore said the decision to close the clinic was made in “and abundance of caution.” He added that this particular clinic is very well-run, and that staff were taking the appropriate precautions in light of COVID-19 concerns.
KFL&A Public Health said they would not be identifying the other clinic where health care workers contracted the disease but did say the second clinic was closed.
“We cannot identify or confirm the clinics where the health care workers work. This would be identifiable information.”
Nevertheless, Verona Medical Clinic, in Verona, Ont., posted to Facebook Wednesday afternoon, saying that they would be closing their doors due to a “positive case of COVID-19.” Global News has not been able to reach anyone from the clinic to confirm whether the case was contracted by a health care professional.
Moore said it was expected that some health care professionals would contract the disease, and that public health was prepared for this reality.
“So we’re working diligently with them to ascertain if they had any travel history or how they could have contracted COVID-19. We’re also going to be contacting any of their patients that they may have had interactions with.”
Moore said that the health care professionals who tested positive were already practicing a lot of medical care over the phone.
“They’ve been phoning their patients or having virtual care of their patients. So they’ve had very limited direct patient contact in the last several days. They were being prudent and responsible in this new COVID-19 environment. The number of patient contacts will be exceptionally low, but we will be contacting those individuals today and working diligently with these practices.”
Lakeland Family Health Team said although their offices are closed, their team will still be trying to help their thousands of patients over the phone and online.
“Even though our building is closed and our staff are isolating at home, we are trying to provide virtual care to our patients from our homes via phone or OTN,” a statement from the health centre read.
On Wednesday, KFL&A Public Health confirmed that there were 14 positive cases of the new coronavirus in their catchment area, which includes the Addington Highlands.
Moore said despite limited tests in the region, KFL&A has been less stringent with testing restrictions when it came to health care workers.
“We have always been very permissive of testing health care workers who come down with a fever and or a cough and or increasing shortness of breath. It was prudent that at that clinic (Lakelands Family Health Team) they did test a health care worker with those symptoms, and it has turned positive.”
In a board of health meeting on Wednesday, Moore said having two medical practices close for 14 days will have a significant impact on thousands of patients.
Moore also mentioned there was a possibility of calling for an “emergency declaration” if it was found that the health officials had contracted COVID-19 through community transmission.
Other Canadian cities, including Ottawa, have already confirmed community transmission of COVID-19 — cases involving no known link to travel or previously confirmed cases.
KFL&A Public Health says they are still investigating how the two health care workers contracted the virus, and that a decision an emergency declaration has yet to be made.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.
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