UPDATED ON 03/31/2020 at 9:00 p.m.

Late on Tuesday, the official count of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) stood at 13.

Ten cases involve residents of Prescott and Russell counties; three of the confirmed cases are residents of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. Of these three cases, two are males in their 50s and the cases are travel-related and one, involving a female in her 30s, is under investigation.

One of the cases involves a woman from Prescott-Russell who is in intensive care at Cornwall Community Hospital.

The tenth Prescott-Russell case is a woman in her 30s and the case is thought to be travel related (US). She is currently in isolation.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said the reason for the sudden increase in confirmed cases is because the results of tests taken a week ago have just become available.

“I was expecting this,” he said, adding that there are quite likely more than 13 cases, but that official confirmation is not yet available.

Roumeliotis said that the EOHU is attempting to move to more real-time reporting of confirmed cases.

The EOHU is listing every COVID-19 case on its website, at https://eohu.ca/en/my-health/covid-19-status-update-for-eohu-region. Only the counties where each case resides is being listed in order to protect patient privacy.

Roumeliotis reminded residents of the region to only leave home for absolutely essential services and for returning travellers to obey the federal quarantine order.

He also advised local media outlets that they should avoid April Fool’s Day stories related to COVID-19.

The EOHU is issuing directives to the retail stores that are still permitted to be open that will be used to remind customers about physical distancing and behaviour while shopping.  Roumeliotis noted that many stores have already adopted different rules and signage to protect customers and employees.

For example, hand sanitizing and washing stations are set up at the entrance of the Vankleek Hill Foodland and the Jean Coutu drugstore in downtown Hawkesbury.  Drugstore staff are also questioning customers when they enter the store by asking if they have recently returned from international travel or if they have COVID-19-like symptoms.

“Store policies are in place to protect everybody,” Roumeliotis said.

He said it is also possible that limits will be placed on the number of customers allowed in stores at a time.

An additional drive-through testing and assessment centre could open as soon as Thursday at the EOHU office in Casselman.  There is already a testing and assessment centre in Hawkesbury.

Many local residents have been making homemade masks from fabric and elastic.  Roumeliotis said their effectiveness will depend on how well they fit as well as how well they withstand humidity.

“They’re probably better than nothing,” he said.

However, Roumeliotis said it is still more effective for people who are sick to wear masks in order to protect those who are not wearing masks.  In order to be completely protected, healthy people would have to wear complete protective equipment like medical personnel do while on the job.

In response to a rumour that employees at a major industry in Prescott-Russell were being tested for COVID-19, Roumeliotis said that if any employee tested positive, it would not mean that the entire plant would have to close.  He explained that it would depend on the evaluation of the contacts the employee had with other personnel.

On Monday, the Ontario government extended its COVID-19 emergency orders for two more weeks.  Roumeliotis said that the week ahead will be crucial in giving an indication of how quickly, and how much life will return to normal.

“Most of April will still be under these similar precautions,” he said.

On a positive note, Roumeliotis said it is believed that people who have recovered from COVID-19 will have immunity for two years after being ill.

Here is information from the EOHU website about COVID-19 and symptoms:

If You Have Symptoms of COVID-19

A COVID-19 self assessment tool is available here. (https://covid-19.ontario.ca/self-assessment/#q0)

Symptoms of COVID-19 are common to a number of respiratory illnesses, and can range from mild to severe: fever, cough and respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Please note: in order to decrease transmission of COVID-19 in the EOHU region, we are now recommending that all residents of the EOHU region practise social distancing.

If you are having difficulty breathing or experiencing other severe symptoms:

Call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room immediately. Advise them of your symptoms and travel history.

If you are experiencing non-severe symptoms:

In order to reduce the burden on 911 and on hospitals, please do not call or show up at the hospital if you are not experiencing serious illness.

If you have MILD symptoms, where you are NOT short of breath and can manage symptoms reasonably at home:

  • Do NOT call the Eastern Ontario Health Unit
  • Do NOT call 911 or go to the hospital or testing/assessment centre
  • DO self-isolate for 14 days or until 24 hours AFTER symptoms have FULLY resolved, whichever is longer
  • NOTE: Most people with mild symptoms will recover on their own at home

If you have ESCALATING SYMPTOMS THAT ARE NOT SEVERE such as a new or worsening cough and/or fever, AND have either travelled outside of Canada or been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days:

  • Children under 6 months of age meeting these criteria should be taken to CHEO
  • Visit a COVID-19 Testing/Assessment Centre (you do not need a referral from the EOHU), OR call your healthcare provider
  • If you are 70 years or older, cannot get to a COVID-19 Testing/Assessment Centre or have special considerations, call the EOHU at 613-933-1375 or 1-800-267-7120
  • If the COVID-19 Testing/Assessment Centre and your healthcare provider are both closed, go to the hospital emergency department and pay attention to special signage

If you do not have symptoms:

People WITHOUT respiratory symptoms (such as fever or cough) will NOT be tested for COVID-19, regardless of potential exposures.

Even if you do not have symptoms, you should self-isolate for 14 days if:

  • You have travelled anywhere outside of Canada (including the United States of America)
  • You live with, provided care for, or spent extensive time with someone who has:
    • Tested positive for COVID-19, OR is suspected to have COVID-19, OR who has respiratory symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) that started within 14 days of travel outside of Canada.