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Local First - COVID Coping - Testing

Hello, bonjour, and welcome to Local First, your public affairs show. This is the third episode of COVID Coping.

I’m Candice Vetter, reporting from my home office in North Russell.

Additional written updates are also posted to our website, CJROradio.com.

Today’s theme is testing and treatment – where to go.

Following Premier Doug Ford’s call to increase testing, the province has released a ranked list of who should be tested. It starts with anyone who works directly with the public, and has symptoms. Next is healthcare workers or members of their households, who have symptoms. Followed by pregnant women with symptoms, returning travellers with symptoms, and close contacts of a probable case with symptoms. However, again it is only for people exhibiting symptoms. This is even though research shows almost one-quarter of COVID-19 infected persons show no symptoms, and that the virus seems to spread by asymptomatic persons, particularly children. This disease is very sneaky.

The asymptomatic virus-shedding prompted Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Theresa Tam, to change her directive on wearing masks. Dr. Tam now says that masks may help slow that type of spread. The directive also reinforces the need to avoid interacting physically with people if at all possible. Infectious disease specialists have also noticed that people who speak loudly (or moistly!) can spread very fine droplets further than two metres. Because they are very light, some of those droplets can stay suspended in air for quite a while, but they also disperse rapidly in air.

The City’s information also reminds the public to care for mental health as well as physical health. Step one suggests unplugging sometimes from social media or news, to give yourself a break. Step two: remember physical distancing doesn’t mean being alone. Reach out—even if you don’t have internet access there are telephones, letters and sometimes neighbours you can talk to from yard to yard. Step three: you are not alone. We’re all in this together. Step four: it’s okay not to feel okay. This is a stressful time with a future even more uncertain than usual. Step five: take care of your body. Exercise, eat well, catch up on sleep, get outdoors if you can.

You can see more at ottawapublichealth.ca.

Several mental health practitioners have also said that having a feeling of control, in a time when everything feels out of control, is helpful for maintaining equilibrium. So if there is a way you can help in this crisis, even if it’s doing one small thing once in a while, there are benefits. For example, one need which has come to light is tutoring for students. Using the internet, or a telephone, someone who has excellent grammar or math skills could coach a student who needs extra help. so finding a way to contribute can make you feel better.


Now for the big question: Where to go for testing?

This has been a moving target, literally.

So now, in Ottawa if you have mild symptoms you can go to the Brewer Park Assessment Centre at 151 Brewer Way across Bronson Avenue from Carleton University. You do not need an appointment. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

If you have worsening symptoms and need medical attention you should go to a COVID Care Clinic. There is one at St. Patrick’s Intermediate School, at 1485 Heron Rd., near the corner of Alta Vista Drive. It is being run by the Montfort Hospital. There is another one at 595 Moodie Drive in the West End, run by the Queensway Carleton Hospital.

If you are in distress, for example with difficulty breathing, chest pain, fainting, or have a significant worsening of symptoms, do not go to the Assessment Centre or Care Clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

Outside of Ottawa there are five local options for COVID-19 Assessment Centres. In Casselman at 872 Principale Street, Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In Cornwall by appointment at 850 McConnell Avenue. Call 613-935-7762. In Hawkesbury at 750 Laurier Street, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In Rockland at 2741 Chamberland Street, Monday to Saturday, by appointment. Call 1-800-267-7120. And in Winchester at 515 Albert Street, Monday to Friday, noon to 6 p.m.

It is hoped that with the additional fast and portable kits developed by Spartan Bioscience of Ottawa testing can expand to everyone, whether or not they have symptoms. Then positive and negative patients in care facilities with outbreaks could be separated.

Antibody test kits have already been developed and are in use. With them people with sufficient antibodies to have temporary immunity can be found, which may help open the economy somewhat. Meanwhile work is accelerating on both developing a vaccine and on treatment. A SARS and MERS treatment (they are both also coronaviruses) was already in clinical trials. Those trials have now been sped up and adapted to COVID-19, with good prospects for a treatment that eases some of the respiratory symptoms. Another potential advance against the disease is the experimental use of blood plasma from people with antibodies.

However, medical professionals still say we are not staying ahead of the disease, and not even keeping pace—especially in institutions.

About 600 seniors’ residences in Canada have outbreaks, including several in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario. Quebec and Ontario have been the worst hit, with grim news coming from Montreal and Bobcaygeon, but it’s not good anywhere for seniors. Half of all coronavirus deaths in Ontario were in long-term care facilities, nursing homes or retirement homes.

One of Canada’s foremost experts in geriatrics, Dr. Samir Sinha, issued a stark warning last week. He said, “If my mom was in long-term care, I would pull her out. Now.”

He acknowledged that not everyone can be looked after at home. But his advice is, if it is physically possible to care for your loved ones at home, get them out while you can.

If you have an interesting take on this crisis, contact me by sending an email to newscjro@gmail.com

Local First - CJRO, last on the dial, first for local news.

Stay home. Stay healthy.

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