Lambton Public Health on Exmouth Street in Sarnia. 27 April 2020. ( photo by Colin Gowdy)Lambton Public Health on Exmouth Street in Sarnia. 27 April 2020. ( photo by Colin Gowdy)

Health unit begins staged return to normal operations

Lambton Public Health is exiting the emergency response mode that has been in effect for over two years.

Part of the change means the health unit will provide weekly COVID-19 updates every Wednesday, down from three updates a week, starting June 1.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sudit Ranade made the announcement during Wednesday's Lambton County Council meeting.

"Moving to a once a week model for reporting on cases, just to focus more on the trends as opposed to the daily or weekly counts, and you'll see more health units go that way as well."

On Monday, the health unit reported 14 new infections, which Ranade said was fairly normal at this point. He said we'll likely see decreases in cases through the summer and then potentially increases in the fall when people congregate indoors.

"But having said that, I think the new reality is that COVID is constantly present at some level and we know that," he said. "I actually struggled with finding new information for this COVID update and I think everyone on council and the board of health should take that as a good sign."

Ranade also said the health unit's immunization program is continuing.

"In any given clinic day, we're still doing about 200 immunizations or so, and again, planning for the fall when we might require a surge or potential surge in immunization if we're starting to see any signs of waning immunity."

Ranade informed council that Lambton Public Health is planning its own debrief of what went well and what could be changed for future pandemic responses.

"But all of the levels that had emergency operation centres would be doing some kind of debrief now that they have closed those down or moved to a more normal kind of model."

Ranade said he would expect the County of Lambton would do some kind of emergency debrief and then other municipalities that activated emergency plans would also do an emergency debrief.

He concluded his update by saying that the health unit is also examining how to do a broader, multi-sector debrief with different groups. Ranade said they're examining if there are any preestablished ways of doing that which they could follow so they could do it more reliably rather than just off the cuff.

In a media release, the health unit said it will readjust focus to other public health priorities, while also ensuring staff are able to quickly pivot back to pandemic response mode if outbreaks and cases increase, or additional immunization efforts are required.

In its update Wednesday, the health unit reported 15 lab confirmed infections since Monday.

The daily average number of cases over a week is up slightly at six.

Since March 2020, there have been 11,895 confirmed infections locally and 146 deaths.

There are eight COVID-positive patients at Bluewater Health in Sarnia, none of whom are in the ICU.

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