Special COVID-19 Statement from Medical Officer of Health, Public Health Sudbury & Districts, Dr. Penny Sutcliffe

Over the last several weeks, there has been an alarming increase in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Greater Sudbury.

While the province of Ontario is seeing improvements in COVID-19 case counts, trends in Greater Sudbury are going in the opposite direction. We are currently a COVID-19 hotspot, with a case rate that is among the highest in the province. These trends signal a call to immediate action. Now is the time for each of us to assess our individual actions and decisions and ramp up COVID-19 precautions—layer on the protective measures such as vaccination, masking, distancing, working from home, and importantly, staying home when even mildly unwell. We have the power in our hands to turn this around.

Make no mistake: COVID-19 surges can happen anywhere and can happen quickly. Locally, no single setting or sector is driving the current increase. The number of cases without any known source of exposure has increased over the last few months, which indicates a worrying trend of community spread of the virus. There are also seven active outbreaks in the Public Health Sudbury & Districts service area, all within Greater Sudbury. These include outbreaks in the Sudbury Jail (59 cases to date), Memorial Park (21 cases), and two schools (6 cases). Our case count per 100 000 residents is among the highest in the province and the percentage of local COVID tests coming back positive is greater than it has been in weeks. The 7-day rate of new cases was 82.5 per 100 000 population, compared with 17 for the province of Ontario. Increases in active cases lead to subsequent increases in hospitalizations, and Health Sciences North already has the highest occupancy percentage among all Ontario hospitals that have more than 100 acute beds.

As a community, we have not done anything wrong, but the recent numbers mean that we must do more things right.

We can continue to enjoy the benefits of the provincial Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long-Term, but only if we strengthen our individual commitment to prevention. Remember that the virus is not selective about who it infects. Any of us could catch COVID-19 and spread it to others—including to those who are more vulnerable, could be inconvenienced by self-isolation, or could develop “long COVID”. As you make decisions about your day-to-day activities, including plans for outings and gatherings, think about the steps you can take to reduce the risk of COVID-19. You know the steps: masking, hosting gatherings outdoors, physical distancing, self-screening for symptoms and getting tested as soon as you can if you do have symptoms, following self-isolation guidance, and vaccination. It is just not worth it—for you and those around you—to skip these simple yet effective steps.

In addition to leading the vaccination program, Public Health is also responsible for following up on every case and contact of COVID-19. Our public health follow-up and direction puts a protective shield around cases and contacts—protecting families and workplaces and schools by preventing further spread of the virus. However, we can only do this work effectively with the patience, kindness, and full cooperation of everyone we need to contact. In light of the growing challenges we are experiencing with this important work, I am issuing a Class Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, requiring all individuals in Public Health Sudbury & Districts’ service area who are either a case, potential case or contact of a case to follow Public Health direction. The Order is enforceable by law and is posted on our website.

This pandemic has tested our resilience, and we’re all looking forward to a day when this chapter in our lives becomes history. Until that time, however, it’s important to remember that we are all in this together and that our collective efforts and our commitment to public health measures are what will see us through.

For more information about COVID-19 and vaccination, please visit phsd.ca/COVID-19. Keep connected with our Facebook and Twitter pages or call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200).

This Media Release