How one Ontario region has kept its COVID-19 death rate at zero
TORONTO -- As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in parts of the country, one region in Ontario has managed to keep its coronavirus death rate at zero.
Grey-Bruce, located in southern Ontario, is one of only a handful of health units in the province that has not reported any fatalities due to the virus.
Dr. Ian Arra, the Medical Officer of Health for Grey-Bruce, told CTV's Your Morning that the diligent work of health-care professionals and "robust public health communication" has been the cornerstone of Grey-Bruce's response to COVID-19.
"What I see here is a commitment to health from local political leaders, commitment to health and compliance from the public that has been informed, engaged and concerned," Arra said in an interview on Monday.
"Communication is key during emergency, too much is not enough," he added.
Arra explained that Grey-Bruce has a team working to provide valuable health information to residents in a timely manner. In addition, he says local media "has been optimal" in providing transparent information to the public while asking the hard questions to get that information.
That collective communication has helped produce results in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in the area, Arra says.
Arra has previously told Grey-Bruce residents to assume each one of them has the virus, so they might behave in the most careful manner possible.
"In Grey-Bruce, we happen to have communities that are engaged, concerned, and continue to have optimal compliance, whether it's the individual organizations, or the group, the families, all around," he said.
Arra noted that, while communication and compliance has not been limited to the Grey-Bruce area, it has been most effective in smaller regions.
"The specialty of public health throughout the province has been utilizing communication during the emergency, and establishing and operating within municipal and local partnership is part of the specialty of public health," he said.
Grey-Bruce recently partnered with Bruce Power, a leading supplier of medical isotopes, that has donated 1.7 million pieces of personal protective equipment to the region including $200,000 worth of masks and sanitizers for schools.
Arra said it is these kinds of commitments to public health from local leaders that has in part helped limit the spread of the virus.
With 164 total cases, 156 of which have recovered, and zero deaths, Grey-Bruce has largely kept COVID-19 at bay.
Arra said this is also due to health officials' rigorous contact tracing. He says the region is tracing 100 per cent of contacts after a positive case.
He explained that Ontario's passive surveillance protocols notify the public health officer of each area when a positive case is reported in their region.
"Then you would go and trace everybody that that person was in contact with in the past few days before being diagnosed, and through that process we evaluate the reliability of the information for the individual who's providing the information, and we cross examine it with information from many people who are contacted," Arra said.
Through this process, Arra said health officials ensure that if there was transmission from the original case, those who may be possibly infected are notified and tested if they have symptoms.
"That will ensure the majority of people who have cases [or] who have symptoms are captured. In general, it's a very robust protocol," he said.
While he acknowledged that Grey-Bruce’s emergency response isn’t perfect, Arra believes it is working so far.
"Have we missed one or two? I'm sure they are cases out there that have not been tested. However, it is the shape of the curve and the ability to trace and continue to trace [that] is essential for mitigation," he said.