Local Health Unit: Celebrate St. Patrick's Day cautiously as COVID-19 rapidly develops

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: ANGELA MCINNES
With the growing number of COVID-19 cases, Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) said to take precaution if you're going out for events like St. Patrick's Day.

With a growing number of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases globally, the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) is reminding people to stay at home if they appear to have respiratory illness symptoms.

Dr. Alex Summers, the MLHU’s associate medical officer of health, said that if you are considering going out for St. Patrick’s Day, to first check if you have respiratory illness symptoms.

“If you have symptoms of respiratory illness —fever, cough, shortness of breath — stay at home. We cannot say it enough and that includes St. Patrick's Day,” Dr. Summers said. “Even though you waited all year to wear your green, now is not the year to go out.”

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He added that if you do decide to go out for St. Patrick’s Day, to wash your hands often, avoid sharing drinks, and stay away from smoking pits outside of bars.

The MLHU is also asking people to start limit their engagement with large events, following Dr. David Williams’, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, recommendation to immediately hold off gatherings with 250 or more people in attendance.

“It's always important to remember that obviously, we can't all stay at home all the time, so certainly, if there are places where you can control your exit if you develop symptoms, those are places to go,” Dr. Summers said. “We're advising people to just be very, very mindful of their symptoms and if you're out and about and you're not feeling well, get out and go home.”

On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a COVID-19 global pandemic. As the number of cases continues to grow around the world, the health unit is experiencing a turning point for the London and Middlesex region.

Dr. Summers said the focus is to test people who will be severely affected by the illness such as health care workers, people with severe respiratory symptoms, and those in long-term care homes. Those with respiratory illnesses will not need to go to the emergency room unless the case becomes severe.

“Most people, if you have respiratory illnesses. The advice is the same. Stay at home, self-isolate, make sure that you are not spreading to others and of course, if they get severe, those symptoms, go into the emerg,” Dr. Summers said. “Otherwise, save the emerg for others because it's very important that those who need testing have access to it.”

He added that the social distancing measures put in place, such as postponing or cancelling events and closing schools, will ensure health and safety.

“These are the important social distancing interventions that are going to help to ensure that we don't have ongoing transmission in our community.”

At press time, no new cases have been confirmed in London, Ont. but Dr. Summers acknowledged this is rapidly changing.

More information can be found on healthunit.com/news/novel-coronavirus.