It is the beginning of November and many of us were hoping we would be in a much better situation with COVID-19 in Ontario. We have seen new daily records of new COVID-19 cases with totals exceeding 1,000. Although once concentrated in the Greater Toronto Area, surges in cases have occurred in Eastern Ontario and more cases travelling North to York and Simcoe County.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has reported our worst month for new COVID-19 cases in October. Reports of ongoing transmission in social gatherings and outbreaks in congregate settings are driving numbers up locally. The geographic distribution of COVID-19 shows most townships across Simcoe County have reported at least one new case within the last week or so.
With these record numbers of new cases, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and intensive care units across the province continue to climb. We know that increases in hospital admissions often lag the identification of new cases by days to weeks. Many hospitals in Ontario are operating at full capacity as Emergency Departments are dealing with increasing healthcare needs and operating rooms are working hard to address a large backlog of surgeries cancelled in wave one. And winter is coming.
Winter typically is associated with a variety of factors that can worsen chronic conditions leading to increased Emergency Department visits and hospitalization. When you add the social isolation generated by the very necessary public health precautions, demand for healthcare services is expected to increase. The team at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH) is taking a variety of steps to help us through a potentially difficult winter.
It has been a month since the Couchiching COVID-19 Assessment Centre has moved to Rotary Place. This has been an outstanding partnership with the City of Orillia in making this space available under extremely tight timelines. Quick access to COVID-19 testing followed up by effective contact tracing is the most effective approach to preventing isolated cases from becoming outbreaks. The safety and efficiency we are able to achieve at Rotary Place is our community’s best option this winter in our COVID-19 testing efforts.
Associate Minister Jill Dunlop recently announced $2.7M of additional funding for OSMH to maintain the ongoing demand for emergency care, ramp up our surgical activity to address the backlog of cases and prepare capacity for potential COVID-19 cases. This is a very welcome and timely investment in our community to maintain the health and well-being of our residents. We have been planning for this announcement for some time and will have the space ready to go in the upcoming days. We have been recruiting clinical and support staff and are confident the team at Soldiers’ will do what it takes to serve our community.
At OSMH, we continue to work hard in order to stay one step ahead so we can continue to serve our community and keep our staff safe and supported. The same must be true on an individual level. We are constantly under the threat of restrictions and lock downs, but there are things we can do to support our own mental and physical health and wellbeing.
We shouldn’t settle for merely coping. We should be aiming to thrive during this uncertain time. Here are a few tips for this winter.
First and foremost, we cannot relax on the very important public health measures of physical distancing, mask use and hand hygiene, in whatever form your winter activities take.
Light to moderate physical activity can be a great way to interact with others and stay warm outdoors. For example, small groups, properly distanced going on a hike in the vast beauty of the Orillia and area trails is a great way to connect with people in a safe way. Create a hiking club. Sometimes we all need the motivation of a group to get us outside in the cold.
Many have enjoyed the ‘driveway’ socials over the summer, where neighbours can connect from a distance. Why not the same this winter? Get your toque, your mitts and warm boots. Stick to the theme of small groups, distanced and outdoors. These gatherings might need to be a bit shorter, but at least your drink will stay cold! We are Canadian, eh?
Stay connected. Set a goal to reach out to 1-2 friends or family you haven’t talked to in some time every week. It is more difficult in the winter to engage in social interaction so extra effort is required. Make it a point to make a call.
Covid has pushed us to our limits. Let’s use our limitless and beautiful outdoor space and our safe community practices to beat this!
Carmine Stumpo, President & CEO
Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital