Dr. Kit Young-Hoon is the medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit, and she confirms there's been only one case reported at Birchwood Terrace.

"I think the word outbreak makes people feel very uncomfortable and suggests that there's widespread transmission happening in a setting, and that's not necessarily true. It is just a technical term used that's been defined by the ministry, and that we're expected to use," she said, during a media briefing earlier today.  

"LTCHs (long-term care homes) must consider a single, laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19 in a resident or staff member as a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak in the home," it says on page 7 of the COVID-19 Outbreak Guidance for LongTerm Care Homes (LTCH) from the Ministry of Health.

An outbreak was also declared at Valleyview School, where the Ministry of Education defines an outbreak as: two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff in a school within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection at school.

Management at Birchwood said in an email yesterday that the staff member involved has been self-isolating, and no other symptoms have been detected in other staff or residents. The senior executive director for Birchwood, Marva Griffiths, added in her email that they're following all of the public health measures suggested by the health unit, Local Health Integration Network and the province.

During this morning's media briefing, Young-Hoon also took time to explain the process for notifying parents of children, who may be involved in contact tracing. This became an important task last week, when four cases were found in three area schools, along with a daycare.

"We have to go through the cohort list and determine what is the level of contact," said the medical officer of health.

"Not necessarily all of these individuals would be considered a close contact. So, we need to have that discussion at the school to assess the lists that they've given us, then we have to contact all of those individuals," she added.

After 10 cases of the coronavirus were reported late last Thursday, Young-Hoon said health unit staff made more than 200 calls to close contacts. This meant staff stayed late Thursday, Friday and worked through the weekend. Some of the calls took more than 20 minutes and were challenging, but Young-Hoon emphasized those who got the calls were also very concerned and very cooperative.

Young-Hoon added health unit staff are making multiple calls to parents, in order to make sure they're getting the proper information.

Another case was identified Saturday in the Kenora area for a total of 11. Health unit staff have not identified any particular pattern or reason why 10 cases were reported at the same time, noting batches of test samples are being sent for processing on a daily basis. 

While the increase in cases and contacts means more testing was needed in a short time period, Young-Hoon noted all of those identified as having COVID-19 -- or who have been in close contact with somebody with the coronavirus -- are self-isolating, while they're waiting for their test results. So, there's no additional risk to the public.

For more information:

COVID-19 Outbreak Guidance for LongTerm Care Homes (LTCH)

Birchwood confirms COVID-19 case

Valleyview's COVID-19 cases being reclassified as an outbreak

COVID-19 Outbreaks in Northwestern Ontario